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An American in Paris

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Based on the 1951 Academy Award-winning movie (of the same title), An American in Paris became a musical theater event when it opened two years ago on Broadway, subsequent to an engagement at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. Now Southern California theatergoers have the opportunity to see this homage to ballet and love at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, through May 7.
Jerry Mulligan (a graceful Ryan Steele took over the role from McGee Maddox on opening night) is an American soldier who has decided to remain in Paris after World War Two to develop his skill as a painter. Soon he sees and becomes enthralled with a Parisian lady named Lise Dassin (a charmingly dexterous Sara Esty). He is joined by fellow veteran and expatriate, the piano playing Adam Hochberg (a cute Etai Benson), who incurred a permanent injury to his leg during the war, and Henri Baurel (an accomplished Nick Spangler), the scion of rich French industrialists, as well as an aspiring song & dance man.
When Jerry eventually acquaints himself with the intriguing Lise, after encountering her again and again, he feels that fate is in play and destiny awaits them as a couple. That is, until he learns that Lise is not only a skilled ballerina but also the selfsame woman that he, along with Adam, has been urging Henri to marry.  Meanwhile, Jerry meets the strong-willed American philanthropist Milo Davenport (Emily Ferranti,holding her own here). Taken by his budding talent and handsomeness, Milo navigates Jerry into and through the artistic community of post-war Paris, which now bustles with new found freedom and creative energy.
Expertly directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, with the musical direction of George and Ira Gershwin’s consummate score by David Andrews Rogers (Craig Lucas wrote the musical’s book), this American in Paris is gorgeous to behold and emotionally resonates. With such song and dance numbers as “I Got Rhythm,” “S Wonderful” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” –  the music is entrancing, and the mise-en-scene is enrapturing (sets and costumes are designed by Bob Crowley; lighting  is engineered by Natasha Katz; and the soundscape is created by Jon Weston). At nearly three hours in length, experiencing An American in Paris is the next best thing to escaping to that French City of Lights.
American in Paris continues at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts through May 7. For reservations, call (714)556-2787. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.scfta.org.
 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.