Saturday, April 15, 2017

Man of Steele in PARIS at Gammage

Ryan Steele
by Jennifer Haaland

His superpowers are ballet and stamina. Ryan Steele, who alternates between leading man and ensemble, will leap ASU Gammage in a single bound when the national Broadway tour of An American in Paris arrives next week.

"Jerry is an American G.I. who decides to stay in Paris after World War II. He embraces the passion he feels for art in a country forced to fight for opportunities to restart," Steele says about the main character he plays in the famous George & Ira Gershwin musical that nabbed twelve Tony nominations in 2015.

America knows and loves the show's music because of the 1951 Gene Kelley blockbuster movie.  It includes songs like "I Got Rhythm" and "S'Wonderful."

"The sadness and weariness is a storytelling tool for us. The movie came out just after the war and couldn't/didn't address it. Our production doesn't shy away from the darkness that was present during the rebirth of Paris," says Steele about the different lens through which this production is viewed. "During the prologue, the audience sees people still struggling to be themselves again, to get past the fear."

An American in Paris Touring Company
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Steele was a literal 'shoe in,' so to speak, for the cast of highly accomplished dancers on account of his super-powered feet. His strong ballet foundation helped establish his Broadway career that includes Newsies (Astaire Award nomination), MatildaWest Side Story and Billy Elliot.

"This is brilliant modern-day ballet choreography," Steele says, whose perspective includes dancing both his principal role and his ensemble role.

"Casting required a strong dance foundation. More than that, we needed a storyteller's ability. The dance sequences get told in a different language," explains Steele. "It's ...more human, more relatable movement that has a greater relationship to the depth of the words and their meaning."

As Jerry, he says, " My biggest challenge is the stamina thing. The role is a beast. Jerry needs to carry scenes as an actor, sing full songs," of course while dancing in his Steele toed shoes.

It's a beautiful story with show-stopping numbers. The show's heart, which is close to Steele's own, lies in the big dance sequence at the end. He says it's a culmination of love and of art and of passion -- all three roads come together.

Look! It will wing its way to the heart of ASU Gammage.  It's a bird. It's a World War II fighter plane. It's super American in Paris.

An American in Paris runs at ASU Gammage from April 18th to April 23rd.

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