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Theatre / An American in Paris

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"S wonderful, 's marvelous...

An American in Paris is a 2015 Broadway musical based on the 1951 Gene Kelly film. It tells the same story of Jerry Mulligan, a former GI turned expatriate artist and Lise Dassin, a French ballerina. Set in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the musical follows its characters in a Paris still scarred and tentative following the Nazi occupation. As Jerry pursues Lise and encourages her ballet aspirations, he also develops a friendship with Adam Hochberg—a pianist, composer, and fellow American—and Henri Baurel, a French magnate's heir who dreams of showbiz success—and whose family is connected to Lise's wartime past.

The show considerably expands upon the plot and score of the movie, most notably in expanding Lise's character, her past, and her aspirations. It also integrates several Gershwin standards, resulting in a score that includes "'S Wonderful", "I Got Rhythm", "They Can't Take That Away From Me", and the titular ballet, now staged as an actual ballet performance with some elements of imagination left.


Opened April 12, 2015 at the Palace Theater. Garnered 12 Tony nominations and won four at the 2015 ceremony.

This musical provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Considerably expands the thin plot of the film, adding in more nuance about the state of postwar Paris and expanding the plotlines of Lise, Henri, and Adam in particular.
  • Adaptational Wimp: While Henri was an established cabaret singer in the film, here he's a meek and mild mother's boy who keeps his dreams of performing from his parents.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Henri. He's an energetic, well-dressed young man who loves being on stage. His mother delicately questions his sexuality, and Adam and Jerry seem fairly unsurprised by the possibility. He does genuinely love Lise, but the exact nature of that love is left up in the air, possibly making this a case of Ambiguously Bi. For what it's worth, the actor originating the role definitively states Henri to be something other than heterosexual.
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  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: Adam sarcastically identifies himself as George Gershwin at a fancy party.
  • Better as Friends: The inevitable outcome of Milo and Jerry's relationship.
  • Becoming the Mask: Henri's parents survived the occupation of France by hiding their intentions from the Germans. They became so good at it that they had all but buried their former selves. Mrs. Baurel came to realize this when Mr. Baurel reminded her how, despite their love of jazz music, they had agreed to say that they hated jazz during the Occupation.
    Mrs. Baurel: We have covered over so much that I can't even find me.
  • Big Fancy House: Milo's apartment is glamorous and modern and the Baurels have a fashionable mansion, in stark contrast with the simpler settings of the less wealthy characters.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Two, both between Jerry and Lise. The first, during their imagined pas de deux, and the second in the final moments of the play.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: Henri kept his desires to be a singer from his parents whom he believed would not approve. When they show up unexpectedly at his performance of "Stairway to Paradise", his mother is initially upset. Then his father approaches him with a stern expression.
    Mr. Baurel: Who would have thought that my own son was capable of this? That was simply...REMARKABLE, MY BOY!
  • Deadpan Snarker: In a Golden-Age-screwball fashion, Milo and Adam especially.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Jerry is drawn to Lise the moment he meets her, and pursues her without giving up.
  • Dream Sequence: In a fashion. The titular climatic ballet is no longer in Jerry's psyche, but instead is a real performance given by the dancer characters. However, the pas de deux between Jerry and Lise is partially imagined: she is really dancing, but she is imagining Jerry as her partner. Similarly, Henri really does sing "A Stairway to Paradise" in the nightclub, but the number turning into a huge Follies-esque production number is all in his imagination.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: At the party celebrating the upcoming ballet, Jerry and Lise have an angst-filled conversation just outside about the impossibility of their love for each other. In the windows behind them, Adam, Milo, and Henri each have a moment of overhearing just at the right/wrong moments.
  • The Glomp: A very delicate, balletic one from Lise to Jerry, during one of the story-ballet montages. She shows up at one of their meetings by the Seine after a particularly frustrating rehearsal, and leaps onto him, latching on without his arms even holding her up.
  • Hidden Depths: It turns out that Henri was a member of La Résistance during World War II, while his parents hid Lise from the Nazis and funneled much of their personal fortune into the Resistance.
    Henri: My mother is obsessed with appearances because she knows what can happen when you are discovered doing what is right by the wrong people. Or even the right people when it isn't the right time.
  • Hopeless Suitor: As in the film, Milo to Jerry. Their relationship starts out with all the outward appearance of her wanting to be his patron and get "favors" in return, but in fact she falls in love with him. Although her feelings are unrequited, they do end up genuinely fond of one another, if not deeply in love.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Milo, Adam, and Henri all walk away from their would-be love interests to allow them to be happy together.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Milo falls for Jerry, who's in love with Lise, who is engaged to Henri and shares mutual affection with him but falls in love with Jerry, whose friend Adam is also falling for Lise.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Refreshingly averted. At first, it seems like Lise is going to be this for all three of the main male characters: a mysterious, dreamy, slightly distant inspiration and object of desire. The story quickly dispels with that, however, giving her a story and character arc of her own that revolves around her own dreams, not just those of her "boys."
  • Pair the Spares: Implied with Milo and Henri; they certainly seem to get along quite well.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Milo loses Jerry to Lise, and Henri and Adam both step away from Lise so she can be happy with Jerry.
  • Title Drop: Lise, to Adam, surprisingly.
    Lise: You are my American in Paris. [kisses him on the cheek]
  • True Art Is Angsty: In-Universe example: Adam, an Army veteran who fought in the war, believes in this trope through most of the play, while Henri holds the opposite view that art can and should be uplifting and joyous. Later Adam learns that Henri had witnessed the Occupation first hand and fought alongside La Résistance, and decides that if Henri could still hold to this belief, then maybe he has the right idea. Adam lampshades this by saying, "I hate it when the French guy's right!"