Director Jewels: 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

An American in Paris: A New Musical at Kansas City Starlight Theatre {Review}

Disclosure: I received press passes to attend this event. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are my own. 


An American in Paris touring company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from this week's touring production of An American in Paris at Kansas City's Starlight Theatre. I hadn't heard the original cast recording and I missed the Tony's the year the production won four awards. So I was very excited to see what this show was all about! 

McGee Maddox and Sara Esty in An American in Paris. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Set in Paris in the late 1940's (just after the end of WWII), An American in Paris follows the story of an American soldier, Jerry Mulligan, and the lovely yet elusive ballerina he falls for, Lise.

The lead roles of Jerry Mulligan and Lise Dassin are played by McGee Maddox (National Ballet of Canada) and Sara Esty (Miami City Ballet). Joining them in the principal cast are Etai Benson (Wicked) as Adam Hochberg, Emily Ferranti (Wicked, Dreamgirls)as Milo Davenport, Gayton Scott (Gypsy, The Women) as Madame Baurel, and Nick Spangler (The Book of Mormon, Rogers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella) as Henri Baurel.

An American in Paris touring company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The whole show feels like something out of a classic film - with lots of singing, dancing, and magical moments. The score features many familiar tunes such as “I Got Rhythm,” “Liza,” “’S Wonderful,” “But Not forMe,” “I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise,”and orchestral music including “Concerto in F,” “Second Prelude,” “Second Rhapsody/Cuban Overture” and “An American in Paris.”

There have been many times I have not been impressed with the use of pre-existing music as score for a new musical, but in this case it works - and it works well. The storyline flowed easily and the music seemed to be made to tell this tale.

Nick Spangler, McGee Maddox and Etai Benson in An American in Paris. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The visuals provided by the always-moving set design were simply lovely and they contributed to the overall romantic feel of the piece. Several times the dance numbers made me think of the 2016 film La La Land - and I wonder if An American in Paris perhaps inspired that movie to some degree. 

A note for families - there was some mild sexual humor and quite a few instances where the characters cursed onstage. It wasn't overt, but parents of little ones may want to be aware before making the decision to take the whole family. It was definitely appropriate for teens and up and I think it's safe to say could be enjoyed by all ages. I wish I could see it again!

Nick Spangler and the An American in Paris touring company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Tickets for An American in Paris at Starlight Theatre are on sale now for $15-$143+. Tickets are available online at Starlight Theatre, by calling 816.363.STAR (7827) or at the Starlight box office at 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, MO 64132. Evening performances begin at 8 p.m.

Thanks to Starlight Theatre for providing my tickets to the show. I received no other compensation and all views expressed are my own. For more information, you can read my Disclosure Policy.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Little Mermaid at Kansas City Starlight Theatre {Review}

Disclosure: I received press passes to attend this event. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are my own. 




Travel under the stars - and under the sea - to the most magical show in town this week... Disney's The Little Mermaid at Starlight Theatre! You can catch the performance through June 11. This show was certainly a fun kick-off to Starlight's summer season and we can't wait for more.


The opening production of Starlight's 67th season is a family-friendly adventure, and the night that we attended there were lots of little Ariels out in the crowd waiting for the show to begin. The "Princess Cam" was a fun perk of the pre-show screen entertainment - watch for that if you have little ones attending with you.

Starlight's season consists of The Little Mermaid, Jersey Boys, An American in Paris, Something Rotten!, The Bodyguard, Motown the Musical, Grease, Mamma Mia!, and Kinky Boots. We'll be featuring reviews for a few of these shows here at Director Jewels, so make sure you stop by again to hear about our next adventure in July!


The familiar Disney version of The Little Mermaid was updated for the 2007 Broadway adaptation. I was lucky enough to catch that production on Broadway in the summer of 2008, and this is the first time since then that I have seen a professional production of the show. I couldn't wait to see another interpretation.

I was truly not disappointed! The use of fly lines to convey the mermaids swimming to and from the surface of the water was very convincing and different from the original production I saw almost nine years ago. I appreciated very much the artistic decisions that were made to include several little moments from the movie. Even small things, like the way Ariel and Eric looked at each other at certain points, were clearly taken directly from the film and since I grew up in the 90's when Ariel was a big deal - this was amazing for me to see.


The cast was excellent; they truly seemed to be enjoying themselves and did a wonderful job of bringing the story to life for us. Standouts were Scuttle (Jamie Torcellini), Sebastian (Melvin Abston), and Flounder (Connor Russell), who were given the not-so-easy task of bringing The Little Mermaid's beloved creature characters to life. Sebastian's crab walk cracked me up all night.


My four year old daughter attended the show with me and she was pretty enthralled for the majority of the performance. She was able to follow the story and was thrilled with Ariel overall (but especially her pink dress). I would advise getting to Starlight early if you have a little one in your party - head to guest services and grab a booster seat for them. We weren't there early enough to get a booster seat, but she switched back and forth between her seat and my lap and was able to see the whole show. Her visibility was definitely increased by the use of the large screens above the stage, which projected the show larger than life (concert-style) so that the audience could all see what was going on. While I appreciate that my daughter was able to follow the story a little better thanks to the screens, I was actually not a huge fan of them. I'm not used to screens during a live performance of this nature and they were a little distracting for me. I like to be able to take in the show as a whole, without necessarily needing to have a closeup view. But I do see how the screens would definitely enhance the viewing experience for those who were further back in the house.

Overall, it was a perfect evening at Starlight and I'm so thrilled I was able to continue this fun tradition with my girl after taking her to see Beauty and the Beast last year.


Tickets for The Little Mermaid at Starlight Theatre are on sale now for $15-$143+. Tickets are available online at Starlight Theatre, by calling 816.363.STAR (7827) or at the Starlight box office at 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, MO 64132. Evening performances begin at 8 p.m.

Thanks to Starlight Theatre for providing my tickets to the show. I received no other compensation and all views expressed are my own. For more information, you can read my Disclosure Policy.
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