(PCM) Before her 30th birthday Sara Esty has discovered that dreams do come true. The lovely and accomplished ballet dancer, is playing the leading role of Lise Dassin in the current tour of “An American in Paris,” the Tony-Award-winning musical about an American soldier, a mysterious French girl, and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war.
Acclaimed director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon brings the magic and romance of Paris into perfect harmony with unforgettable songs from George and Ira Gershwin in the show that earned more awards than any other musical in the 2015 season. With rich storytelling and ravishing and nuanced dance numbers and memorable show tunes, the show is, as the Gershwin brothers would say, simply s’wonderful.The show comes to the Academy of Music from Tuesday, Nov. 22-Sunday, Nov. 27, the perfect time to enjoy this romantic show with family and friends during the holiday season.
The lovely Esty, a former soloist with the Miami City Ballet, received her training at the Maine State Ballet, the School of American Ballet, and the Miami City Ballet School. She received a Princess Grace Fellowship Award for excellence in dance. This accomplished dancer has performed various works by legendary choreographers, including George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, and Christopher Wheeldon.
Q: The current national tour of “An American in Paris” just started. How long have you been with this musical?
SARA ESTY: I have been with the show since the inception; about two and a half years.
Q: Tell me about the early beginnings of this show for you?
SE: I started rehearsals in New York and then we had a two-month trial run in Paris, which was incredible. After that we brought it to Broadway. So, I have seen it in all of its stages of development –- which has been thrilling for me.
Q: Have you had the same part all along?
SE: No. I started in Paris as a stand for the lead, and I had the honor of performing the show a few times in Paris. I went on twice a week and was in the ensemble, and now I’ve graduated to playing the lead; it has been an awesome ride. Ironically, my current leading man in the tour, Garen Scribner, was the alternate for the leading role in the beginning.
Q: Please tell me about your background.
SE: I grew up in a small town Gorham, Maine, which is about 15 minutes outside of Portland. My identical two sister, Leigh-Ann, and I started dancing at the age of three. After high school I had to decide if I wanted to pursue dancing, or college.
Q : Your decision was…
SE: Dancing. Basically, at age 18, and right out of high school I started auditioning for dance companies and was accepted into the Miami City Ballet. I was there for 10 years, and my sister, who is also my best friend, got a job dancing there as well.
Q: How did you wind up performing in musicals?
SE: I’ve always loved the performing arts and Broadway, and I have also long enjoyed singing. I was in the chorus and chamber choir in high school, but I never knew that I would have an opportunity to exercise all of my passions in one outlet.
Q: How did “An American in Paris” come about for you?
SE: I heard about the great names behind the show. The idea of entering the world of a big Broadway musical really got me excited. I auditioned, and almost three years later, here I am.
Q: Generations of movie musical lovers know the show from the Gene Kelley version. What has this experience been for you doing it live each night?
SE: We really do love doing it. It’s a beautiful and an important story today – especially today when there is so much pain, war, and hate in the world, and so it’s about acknowledging that love is so integral to each of us and that it can conquer all. It feels really good to relay that message to audiences everywhere.
Q: The themes are truly universal; and it appeals to people who enjoy a wide range of the performing arts.
SE: Yes. I agree. I often talk to people who say ‘I’m not much of a ballet person,’ but I loved this show. Everyone has his or her own opinion, but it seems that our story is not only a big Broadway musical, it is telling an important story through movement. It’s so much more than people expect, so people often tell me that they are pleasantly surprised by how much they are captivated by every aspect of the show.
Q: So what is your sister doing these days?
SE: Happily she is on tour with me.
Q: That’s wonderful.
SE: She stayed with the Miami City Ballet for two extra years, and when I told her they were started auditioning performers for this tour, she said she was ready to leave the ballet company. She auditioned and was given the part of my alternate, so she goes on a couple times a week. I am over the moon that we are back together. We are best friends and one another’s biggest supporters. What they say is true about twins, it is an Indescribable connection. For us to experience that same character in the same show is amazing and remarkable. I love that we are back together sharing this incredible experience.
Q: Have your mom and dad seen this show?
SE: I can’t even count how many times. Both of my parents went to the recent opening in Boston a few weeks ago and I know that my mom is coming to Philadelphia, and that my dad will come back to see it again, soon. I have a feeling they are definitely going to be our tour groupies.
Q: So, why should people come to see the show in Philadelphia and other stops on the tour?
SE: Well, like I was saying, this is a story everyone can relate to in some way, shape or form.
Q: Why do you feel that way?
SE: I say that because everyone has gone through hard times and has had to rebuild after that and they come out of that hardship a better and stronger person.
Q: How do you relate this to the show?
SE: Our characters are rebuilding after a time of no hope, doubt, fear and terror – and they discover that love does triumph after all. We can all kind of relate to that. If you love a big Broadway musical, and a good story, and embrace the idea of love you should come to this show for sure.
Q: How do you spend your rare free time?
SE: It’s so funny because we are just kind of getting into our routine of having days off. So I will try to find local places for a massage, and experience fun local restaurants and markets. We have been to Buffalo, Hartford and Boston, and Philadelphia is next. I want to see as much of cities we are going as possible. I haven’t been to most of them. I know that a lot of our cast members keep journals, and I have been taking a lot of videos so maybe I can put something together on touring unique places.
Q: How long do you plan to be with this tour?
SE: I signed on for a year, so that takes me to October 2017. The tour is growing. In fact, it is opening in London in March, which is really exciting. There have also been talks about taking it all over the world, because the show is so amazing and everyone – far and wide –seems to really love it.
Q: I hear the excitement in your voice for dancing. Could you imagine a world in which you did not dance?
SE: No, not really. I have often said that it is probably something that I have to do. It is such a big passion of mine, I honestly can’t imagine my life without it. I am the worst relaxer you will ever meet. I do love having a day off here and there, but after an extended period of time I get really antsy. I am always much happier when I am dancing and when I am surrounded by music; it just makes me happy and fulfills me as a person.
Q: So what do you see for your future?
SE: After I am done with this show, I would love to do another musical. I hope to go back to New York and see what’s out there for me. I am enjoying the acting and singing, so I will see where this takes me. I can’t see not having dancing in my life or not being in the entertainment field in general.
Q: Why is that?
SE: It’s just in my bones, in my heart and in my soul. I have to pinch myself on a daily basis to believe this is what I do every day. The work is hard, don’t get me wrong, but – it just feels so gratifying and fulfilling. I love that I get to tell these beautiful stories and help transport us from our daily lives. People call it work; but to me it feels incredible.
For further information about “An American in Paris,” please go to: www.kimmelcenter.org