I’ve been to the theater countless times in the US, but I had my first experience attending the theater in France this week. Let me start by saying that the show we saw, An American in Paris, was in English starring a British woman and an American man.
Even though the show was in English, the theater was one of few places in Paris where everyone spoke to me in French, even once I started speaking in my mediocre French back to them.
The theater where we went is called Le Théâtre du Châtelet and is actually where the original production of the musical started in 2014. The theater is stunning with ornate gold accents lining each of the theater’s five stories. The theater seats 2010, which is slightly larger than the largest Broadway house, the Gershwin, which seats 1933. Because of the number of stories, its lavish design, and its capacity, the theater reminded me of opera houses like the Citizen’s Bank Opera House in Boston or the Civic Opera House in Chicago.
An American in Paris has a score by George and Ira Gershwin featuring many familiar songs that always bring a smile to my face. The show also features beautiful balletic choreography by Christopher Wheeldon that I remembered from when I saw the show on Broadway in 2015.
I had a lot of fun reading the French subtitles that were projected above the stage and noticing the differences in the English and French translations. My husband found it hilarious that the translator didn’t even try to translate “S’Wonderful” or “S’Marvelous” and just stuck with the French words for “wonderful” and “marvelous.”
Frequently, when actors are asked what the difference between audiences on Broadway and in the West End are, they mention that London audiences are appreciative, but not as vocal as New York audiences. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Parisian audiences, especially while watching a show set in Paris and featuring Americans and Brits doing French accents.
People laughed appreciatively throughout the show and clapped politely throughout the performance, but reactions were generally relatively tame. However, at the end, it was clear that the audience loved the show. As soon as the curtain fell, there were standing ovations and raucous applause.
This experience reminded me how universal theater can be. Even in a country thousands of miles from home where I barely speak the language, I could share a collective experience with hundreds (if not thousands) of others and take away the same messages as everyone else.