Lone Star Ballet to stage original adaptation of 'American in Paris'
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By Chip Chandler — Producer
A longtime love for a silver screen legend culminates in Lone Star Ballet's latest original production.
The company will stage its version of An American in Paris in three performances beginning Friday in the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Buchanan St.
LSB will use George Gershwin's iconic jazz-influenced orchestral work, written in 1928 and inspired by the time he studied in Paris earlier that decade, as well as other pieces written by the American composer.
It's perhaps most identified with Gene Kelly, who starred in a 1951 film inspired by the music, one of the finest Hollywood musicals ever filmed, directed by Vincente Minnelli.
"Gene Kelly is one of my favorites," LSB artistic director Vicki McLean said.
She met him while she was studying dance at Southern Methodist University when he came to speak following a screening of his 1952 film Singin' in the Rain.
"He was an extraordinary gentleman — exceedingly talented with a funny sense of humor," McLean recalled.
Gershwin called his orchestral poem a "rhapsodic ballet," though he didn't live to see how it inspired the film. Its centerpiece is a 17-minute ballet section using Gershwin's 1928 work, both exploring the relationship between Jerry (Kelly) and Lise (Leslie Caron) and taking viewers through a history of the French art world.
The film, which won an Oscar for Best Picture, was adapted into stage musicals in 2008 and 2014, the latter opening on Broadway in 2015.
But LSB's version will be a traditional dance piece — no dialogue, just movement and music.
"I'm so very excited to do this," McLean said. "If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time anyone has taken something like An American in Paris and adapted it as a ballet."
She'll use the basic framework of the Minnelli movie — Jerry (danced by Boyd Burch), an American vet who's trying to make his way as a painter in Paris; Adam (Edgar Tarango), his friend who's trying to make a living as a concert pianist; Milo (Roxann Seaton), his wealthy benefactor; and Lise (danced in alternate performances by Berkley Henderson, Jillian Howell and McKinlea Kear), the young woman with whom he falls in love.
"The dancers have done an excellent job with this," McLean said. "They have found the characters within them and made this a special show."
As with the movie, many of Gershwin's other beloved works — from songs like "I Got Rhythm" and "Love Is Here to Stay" to more weighty compositions like his Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra — will be featured, as will a variety of dance styles, including tap and jazz.
"I want it to be dedicated to Gene Kelly and his artistry, Leslie Caron and her artistry, Oscar Levant and his artistry," McLean said. "It's been great fun."
Performances are set for 8 p.m. Friday and 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday in the Globe-News Center. Tickets are $10 to $40, plus fees.
Call 806-372-2463 or 806-378-3096.