My wife and I just saw An American in Paris at the San Diego Civic Theater. It was a dazzling thing, filled with movement and light and sound and color. Even from the cheap seats it felt like a window into a pop-art version of post-war Paris. The reboot turned Lise, the central love interest, into a ballerina, leading to extended dance numbers. That, in turn, meant songs from the 1951 movie were trimmed or cut entirely, including the lovely – and plot-moving – “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” to make room for the dance-friendly but relatively empty-headed Gershwin Bros. stomper “Fidgety Feet.”
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole spectacle. But, being someone more into Shakespeare than modern musicals, I kept waiting for someone, anyone, to be horribly betrayed and murdered. That apparently rarely happens in Broadway productions based on MGM musicals. (Hey, there’s a thought: Othello, The Musical. Only, yeah, it’s been done, a few times at least.) I also kept waiting for insight into someone’s, anyone’s, thoughts. That, too, didn’t happen. And that’s the bit I really missed: the breaking of the fourth wall and the intimate engagement of the soliloquy.
As technically and physically astonishing as the performance was, it was just that: an awesome audio-visual display. It was something meant to be looked at and listened to, but not immersed in on a psychological level.
Hmm, maybe it’s time to give opera a try.