Back in the day, I used to watch Great Performances with my mother on PBS. It’s how I was introduced to Cats, Sunday in the Park with George, and Shakespeare. I was introduced to the idea of Broadway through watching theatre from my living room. And now, that experience has come out of the living room and onto the silver screen.
On September 20th and 23rd, the West End run of An American in Paris will presented at a theatre near you. It’s admirable that Trafalgar Studios has taken such a lush show and presented it to the masses.
Living in New York can make one forget how inaccessible Broadway shows can be to mainstream America. Great Performances and Masterpiece can only do such much to bring classic works to audiences. And there’s something wildly satisfactory about seeing such gorgeous dancing up on a giant screen. This is not your mother’s Great Performances.
Full disclosure, despite being a giant Broadway nerd, I had never seen the Gene Kelly original. After seeing the stage production, I immediately rented film to remedy that. I can safely say that the stage narrative different from the 1951 version.
Yes, there’s still plenty of song-and-dance. There’s still “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “Stairway to Paradise,” and an extended dance finale. But there’s also a few more Gershwin classics, and a few additional story lines. There’s an attempt to add depth and nuance by rooting the setting in post-occupation Paris. While I felt concerned that much of story line for the female lead felt dated in the update, the folks around me seemed to be enjoying themselves.
With Broadway turning more and more to adaptations of films, it’s worth bringing Broadway out of New York. PBS has already aired the recent revival of She Loves Me, and Broadway HD is working hard make “the magic of theatre” more accessible. Trafalgar Releasing is taking it to the next level, with the King and I being released in the US in November 2018.
So if you’re feeling like a night out for some song-and-dance, maybe look Broadway on the Big Screen?