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An American in Paris at DPAC Is a Delightful, Dance-Heavy Musical, "Inspired by" the Film

Sara Esty and Garen Scribner star as French ballerina Lise Dassin and American painter Jerry Mulligan in the touring company of <em>An American in Paris</em>, which opens Jan. 3rd at DPAC (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Sara Esty and Garen Scribner star as French ballerina Lise Dassin and American painter Jerry Mulligan in the touring company of An American in Paris, which opens Jan. 3rd at DPAC (photo by Matthew Murphy)

On Jan. 3-8, the Durham Performing Arts Center will present eight performances of the 2016-17 U.S. Tour of the multiple 2015 Tony Award®-winning musical An American in Paris as part of its current SunTrust Broadway Series. Inspired by the multiple Oscar®-winning 1951 MGM musical An American in Paris, directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Gene Kelly as American G.I. and aspiring painter Jerry Mulligan, Oscar Levant as his American friend concert pianist Adam Cook, Georges Guétary as Cook’s friend French singer Henri Baurel, Nina Foch as wealthy heiress and art and music patron Milo Roberts, and Leslie Caron as the drop-dead-gorgeous object of all three men’s affections, exquisite French ballerina Lise Bouvier, the 2014 Paris, 2015 Broadway, and 2017 West End musical An American in Paris features music by George Gershwin (1898-1937), lyrics by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983), and a brand-new book by Craig Lucas, which differs from the 1951 screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner in several characters’ names and other important aspects.

The film, which received eight 1952 Academy Award nominations, won six Oscars — for Best Picture; Best Writing, Story and Screenplay; Best Cinematography, Color; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color; Best Costume Design, Color; and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture. The movie’s soundtrack included the title tune, which Kelly transformed into a truly spectacular 17-minute ballet for himself and Caron, plus ““I Got Rhythm,” “Liza (All the Clouds’ll Roll Away),” “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” “Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra,” “‘S Wonderful,” and “Love Is Here to Stay — all of which are included in the stage musical’s song list, which interweaves “The Man I Love,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” and other Gershwin compositions into this unforgettable story about life and love in newly liberated Paris, after the German Occupation and the Allied victory in World War II.

“[The touring version of An American in Paris is nearly identical to the Broadway production,” claims Nick Spangler, who plays Henri Baurel, the restless, well-to-do scion of a family of French industrialists whose heart’s desire is to shun the family business and become a song-and-dance man. Spangler adds, “The sets, costumes, lights, and choreography are exactly the same. The level of talent is the same or even higher.”

The cast of the touring company of <em>An American in Paris</em>includes (from left) Nick Spangler as Henri Baurel, Garen Scribner as Jerry Mulligan, and Etai Benson as Adam Hochberg (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The cast of the touring company of An American in Paris includes (from left) Nick Spangler as Henri Baurel, Garen Scribner as Jerry Mulligan, and Etai Benson as Adam Hochberg (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Spangler notes, “Our production is not the movie put on stage; it’s ‘inspired by’ the movie [and] it’s very dance heavy. A lot of the story is told through the choreography.”

For example, Spangler says, during the 10-minute opening number, DPAC patrons will see Paris awakening after four years of German Occupation. he points out that Craig Lucas made some contemporary enhancements to the story. For example, says Spangler, “He gave my character a lot more backstory.”

When the curtain rises, Broadway veteran Nick Spangler says, “Henri is engaged to [Parisian shop girl and would-be ballerina] Lise Dassin [played on tour by Sara Esty], and he loves her very much. She falls for an [ex-]American soldier [and aspiring artist named Jerry Mulligan, played by Garen Scribner], but feels duty-bound to Henri and his family,” because they saved her from the Nazis. “Henri has to decide whether to make the gentlemanly choice and set her free — and experience gentlemanly heartbreak in doing so,” says Spangler.

An American in Paris had its world premiere, appropriately, on Dec. 10, 2014 at the Théâtre du Châtelet — in The City of Light — where it played through Jan. 4, 2015. Shortly thereafter, An American in Paris made its Broadway debut, directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, on April 12, 2015 at the Palace Theatre, where it ran for 623 performances before closing on Oct. 9, 2016. The show earned 14 2015 Tony Award® nominations, including one for Best Musical, and won five Tonys, including Best Choreography (Christopher Wheeldon), Best Orchestrations (Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky, and Bill Elliott), Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Bob Crowley), and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Natasha Katz), plus the Drama League Award for Best Musical, four Drama Desk Awards, four Outer Critics Circle Awards, two Theatre World Awards, and three Fred and Adele Astaire Awards.

An American in Paris will premiere at the Dominion Theatre in London’s West End on March 21, 2017. The show is currently booked through Sept. 30, 2017.

Emily Ferranti and Garen Scribner star as wealthy heiress and art connoisseur Milo Davenport and aspiring artist Jerry Mulligan in the U.S. tour of <em>An American in Paris</em>, playing Jan. 3-8 at DPAC (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Emily Ferranti and Garen Scribner star as wealthy heiress and art connoisseur Milo Davenport and aspiring artist Jerry Mulligan in the U.S. tour of An American in Paris (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The current tour of An American in Paris is produced by Stuart Oken, Van Kaplan, and Roy Furman by special arrangement with Elephant Eye Theatrical, the Pittsburgh CLO, and Théâtre du Châtelet. In addition to Broadway and tour director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, the show’s creative team includes musical adaptor and supervisor Rob Fisher, music supervisor Todd Ellison, music coordinator Seymour Red Press, music director/conductor David Andrews Rogers, scenic and costume designer Bob Crowley, lighting designer Natasha Katz, props supervisor Kathy Fabian/Propstar, projection designer 59 Productions, sound designer Jon Weston, fight director UnkleDave’s Fight-House, associate director/choreographer Dontee Kiehn, associate choreographer/resident director Sean Maurice Kelly, production supervisor Rick Steiger, production stage manager Kenneth J. Davis, and assistant stage managers Donavan Dolan and Laura C. Nelson. The tour also features orchestrations by Christopher Austin and Bill Elliott and dance arrangements by Sam Davis.

In addition to former San Francisco Ballet soloist Garen Scribner as the passionate expatriate painter Jerry, former Miami City Ballet soloist Sara Esty as the lovely and mysterious Lise, and Nick Spangler as Henri the heir to a textile fortune who’d chuck it all for a show-business career, the tour stars Emily Ferranti as Milo Davenport, a strong-willed American heiress, art and music connoisseur, and patron to ex-American GI and composer Adam Hochberg; Etai Benson as Adam; and Gayton Scott as Henri’s mother, Madame Baurel. Their co-stars include Barton Cowperthwaite as a Returning Soldier and Lise’s Ballet Partner; Caitlin Meighan as the Returning Soldier’s Wife; Don Noble as Henri’s father, Monsieur Baurel, and a Store Manager; Kyle Vaughn as Lise’s choreographer Mr. Z; and Laurie Wells as Olga the Russian ballet teacher.

The Ensemble includes Karolina Blonski, Brittany Bohn, Stephen Brower (Adam and Henri understudy), Randy Castillo, Jessica Cohen, Alexa De Barr, Leigh-Ann Esty (Lise alternate), Sayiga Eugene Peabody, Alexandra Pernice (Milo understudy), David Prottas (Adam understudy), Lucas Segovia, Ryan Steele (Jerry alternate), Dana Winkle (Milo and Madame Baurel understudy), Erica Wong, and Blake Zelesnikar. Swings include Jace Coronado (Mr. Z, Monsieur Baurel, and Store Manager understudy), assistant dance captain Ashley Dupeé (Olga and Returning Soldier’s Wife understudy), Erika Hebron (Olga understudy), dance captain Christopher M. Howard (Henri, Mr. Z, Returning Soldier, Store Manager, and Lise’s Ballet Partner understudy), Colby Q. Lindeman (Mr. Z, Returning Soldier, and Lise’s Ballet Partner understudy), Nathalie Marrable (Olga understudy), Tom Mattingly (Returning Soldier and Lise’s Ballet Partner understudy), Alida Michal (Returning Soldier’s Wife understudy), Sayiga Eugene Peabody, and Danielle Santos (Returning Soldier’s Wife understudy).

Nick Spangler (center) stars as aspiring song-and-dance man Henri Baurel (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Nick Spangler (center) stars as aspiring song-and-dance man Henri Baurel (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Born on May 11, 1985 in Mountain View, CA, Nick Spangler grew up in nearby Los Altos, where Spangler Mortuaries is the family business. Spangler says he was bitten by the theater bug at age five, when he played a member of the Lollipop Guild in a local production of The Wizard of Oz. “I just always knew what I wanted to do,” he says.

The 31-year-old actor performed in community theater is Los Altos and studied theater at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View and Foothill College in Los Altos. In 2007, he earned a degree in musical theater from the renowned Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

On May 14, 2008, 23-year-old Nick Spangler and his little sister, 21-year-old Emily “Starr” Spangler, won the 13th installment of the CBS television reality series “The Amazing Race” — the first team of siblings to do so.

During his senior year at NYU, Nick Spangler won the Theater Hall of Fame Elaine and Jerry Orbach Fellowship Award for his performance as Matt in the Off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks (2006), and he subsequently performed in the original Broadway casts of The Book of Mormon (2011) and Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella (2012). He played best man Greg Madison from the git-go in the original Broadway cast of It Shoulda Been You (2015). “It was my first chance to create a principal role on Broadway,” he says.

Spangler says that he first auditioned for the Broadway production of An American in Paris. Two years later, he auditioned for the current U.S. tour, which commenced on Oct. 14-21, 2016 in Boston; and right before callbacks, he rushed out and saw the show for the first time. “The guy playing Henri on Broadway [Max von Essen] was absolutely incredible,” says Spangler.

The physical stamina that propelled him into the winner’s circle of “The Amazing Race” is useful in performing the role of Henri in An American in Paris. “It’s a very physical show,” claims Nick Spangler, “and it’s a very difficult show to learn…. Dancers are not used to doing eight performances a week.” He adds that a physical therapist travels with the company.

Spangler adds, “We’ve got all the great songs from the movie, as well as a few more that have been added…. The cast and the company are just about the best group of people that I’ve ever worked with.”

The touring company of <em>An American in Paris</em> trips the light fantastic (photo by Matthew Murphy)

The touring company of An American in Paris trips the light fantastic (photo by Matthew Murphy)

SECOND OPINION: Dec. 31st Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); Dec. 31st Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Mary Cornatzer:; Dec. 29th Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Logan A. White for “Teens & Twenties”:; and Dec. 27th Raleigh, NC Raleigh BWW TV interview associate musical director Brad Gardner, conducted by Jeffrey Kare:

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 3-5, 8 p.m. Jan. 6, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 7, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $40-$135. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.


DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787),, or

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587,, or

SHOW: and



THE TOUR:,–500946,,, and







NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7th, performance.


An American in Paris (1951 film): (Turner Classic Movies), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

George Gershwin (Brooklyn, NY-born composer, 1898-1937): (official website), (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Ira Gershwin (New York, NY-born lyricist, 1896-1983): (official website), (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

An American in Paris (2014 Paris, 2015 Broadway, and 2017 West End musical): (official website), (Internet Broadway Database), (Facebook page), (Twitter page), (Wikipedia), and (YouTube).

Craig Lucas (Atlanta, GA-born playwright and screenwriter, 1951-): (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Christopher Wheeldon (Broadway and tour director and choreographer): (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Wikipedia).

Nick Spangler (actor who plays Henri Baurel): (tour bio), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), (Facebook page), and (Twitter page).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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