Thursday 13th December 1928 saw a new musical open at the Carnegie Hall on New York’s Broadway – it was called ‘An American in Paris’. The music was written by George Gershwin; the lyrics by his brother Ira. The story was about an American who goes to Paris to be a painter. The show had some wonderful songs such as ‘Embraceable You’, ‘I Got Rhythm’, ‘Love is here to stay’ and ‘S Wonderful’.
That’s not really unexpected because Gershwin was influenced by the jazz of the 1920s as well as by the French composers Claude Debussey and Joseph Ravel. In fact Gershwin actually asked Ravel to give him for lessons in the 1920s but Ravel, after some serious consideration we are told, refused, on the grounds that they “would probably cause him to write bad Ravel and lose his great gift of melody and spontaneity”.
There were also other facets of Paris that Gershwin wanted to convey to the audience. He and a friend went to Paris to ‘capture’ the street noises and atmosphere of the city. Not just that, though. While they were there they also bought some taxi horns from one of the city shops.
In 1951 it was made into a film starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. Here the story is of an American World War 2 veteran Jerry Mulligan – played by Gene Kelly is now an exuberant expatriate in Paris trying to make a reputation as a painter. His friend and neighbour, Adam Cook (Oscar Levant), is a struggling concert pianist who is a long- time associate of a French singer, Henri Baurel played by Georges Guétary. At the ground-floor bar, Henri tells Adam about his cultured girlfriend. Jerry joins them later, before going out to sell his art. These numbers had – and still have – a jazzy feel about them.
Just out of interest I had a look on the Internet to see if the show is on at the moment and found this:-
Booking from 4th March to 30th September 2017: ‘An American in Paris’. Tickets at the Dominion Theatre London on sale now! Up to £10 off tickets for performances in March.