You might think a show so ballet-oriented would feel light on its feet, but this stage adaptation of the 1951 movie musical is decidedly thudding. It drains the jazz out of classic Gershwin tunes, and most of the romance out of the plot. As in the film, Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox, unconvincing in the Gene Kelly role) is an American G.I. turned expat artist in the City of Lights, who falls head over heels for French girl Lise (Sara Esty) without knowing she’s already attached to his pal Henri (Nick Spangler).
But the book by Craig Lucas sketches all of the characters and their connections too lightly; combined with a distinct lack of chemistry among the performers—Maddox and Esty are clearly here for their dancing abilities, not their singing or acting—we’re left woefully underinvested. Even Christopher Wheeldon’s Tony-winning choreography, though wonderfully executed, could use more variety. The movie at least allows Kelly some jazzy, tap-dancing numbers to balance the ballet; here, the 16-minute “American in Paris” ballet near the end, which should feel revelatory, instead is anticlimactic. ’S not so wonderful.
Oriental Theatre. Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. Book by Craig Lucas. Directed by Christopher Wheeldon. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 40mins; one intermission.