Directed by ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ choreographer Al Blackstone, ‘An American in Paris’ at Cape Playhouse is superb theater that celebrates dance

In 2022, Cape Playhouse patrons were mega-disappointed when the anticipated run of “An American in Paris” was cut short after only five performances due to COVID-19 among the cast. Fast-forward to this summer, when the Tony-winning musical has returned to the Playhouse stage for a complete re-run, including many of the original leads. Audiences can now luxuriate in this star-struck evening of gorgeous Gershwin tunes and spectacular dance sequences.

Director/choreographerAl Blackstone is the director and choreographer. The score is by George and Ira Gershwin. The book is by Craig Lucas.

What it’s about: The show owes both its exuberance and the air of “Where do we go from here?” to its setting on the cusp of a new beginning: We’re in Paris, just at the close of World War II.

Both the fabled city and its war-weary inhabitants are discovering a sense of rebirth from the ashes of war, as three young friends, Jerry, Adam and Henri, set out to create their brand-new schemes and hopes in a post-war world where everything seems up for grabs.  Each is separately attracted by the same lovely young Parisian dancer, who will ultimately enable each to set off in pursuit of their fledgling dreams.

Music and choreography propel the show’s central themes of love and loss, in a city recently freed from Nazi occupation. Confusions and love triangles accentuate the song-and-dance sequences as, one at a time, characters must decide whether to follow their hearts and pursue new dreams.

See it or not:  How could you not? Streaming and movies may be fine, but this evening of superb entertainment only proves that nothing can compare to live theatre. “An American in Paris” delivers on every level, from engaging performances by the three friends: Jerry (Josh Drake), Henri (Bruce Landry) and Adam (Barrett Riggins); to an evocative set designed by David Arsenault; astounding costumes (designer DW) that dazzle the eye; and a full 10-piece musical ensemble directed by Matthew Smedal that delivers the incomparable Gershwin legacy.

Highlights: This is as fine an evening of theater as I’ve ever seen, superbly directed and choreographed by Blackstone ― just a year later than planned. The multi-talented Blackstone, who recently embellished his career with an Emmy for choreographic feats on “So You Think You Can Dance,” appears to top each “Paris” dance number with another brilliantly constructed sequence, such as the early “I Got Rhythm,” tapped out in darkness by lantern light; the wild “Fidgety Feet” ensemble; and a stunning paean to Broadway flash and sparkle, led by Henri in “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise.” These and many more are topped off by the musical’s showpiece “An American in Paris” ballet, a 15-minute homage to the art of the dance, carried off to perfection by the show’s ensemble.

Interesting fact: It’s often done the other way, but in this case, Broadway’s “An American in Paris” (2015) grew from the inspiration of a much earlier movie (1951) that starred Gene Kelly and a young Leslie Caron, in her first Hollywood role.

Worth noting:  Special acclaim attends the show-stopping performance by Leigh-Ann Esty as Lise Dassin, the talented (is she ever!) Parisian dancer.

Though he attains his dream of success as a composer, Riggins deftly portrays the show’s sub-theme of wistfulness and loss.

 Michael McBride (as Mr. Z, the ballet director) is a sublime performer ― watch for him in the ensemble as well.

Every move, even the set changes, is worth watching, as performers execute flaunty dance moves as they roll away the scenery. Rows of Paris windows hanging above the stage wink with warmth and light. The entire ensemble is superb.

If you go: “An American in Paris” at Cape Playhouse, Route 6A, Dennis Village, through Aug. 12. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees on Aug. 2, 3, 9 and 10. Tickets: $54.50 to $104.50 including fees. Call the box office: 508-385-3911, or visit

Barbara Clark

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