• 88°

Audience embraces Gershwin show

Dean Balkwill as Bill and Lisa Joyner Balkwill as Marie Claire kick up their heels during one of the uptempo numbers in “Embraceable You.”

Dean Balkwill as Bill and Lisa Joyner Balkwill as Marie Claire kick up their heels during one of the uptempo numbers in “Embraceable You.”

It was shades of Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse set to George Gershwin’s timeless standards in a belated Valentine for the Ritz audience on Saturday night.

“Embraceable You: The Music of George Gershwin” closed out the Greenville Area Arts Council’s 2016-2017 artistic season on a high note with some high-flying choreography courtesy of its two stars, Broadway veterans and real-life couple, Dean and Lisa Balkwill.

The story line revolved around Bill, an American newly arrived in Paris a few years after WWII, and Marie Claire, the French chanteuse at Club Mystique. Naturally, they fall in love and encounter all the ups and downs of romance, set to classics like “The Man I Love,” “S’Wonderful,” “They Can’t Take That Away” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

Ms. Balkwill’s sultry moves with her co-star in the red-hot dream sequence set to “It Ain’t Necessarily So” definitely evoked images of  the legendary Charisse’s performances in “Singin’ in the Rain” and “An American in Paris,” as well as her own turn as a singer and dancer in 2002’s Oscar-winning film, “Chicago.”

“Exuberant” was the word to describe other musical numbers with “Bill” literally sweeping “Marie Claire” off her feet and high into the air, much to the delight of those in attendance.  The Balkwills also ventured into the audience during the production, with Ms. Balkwill dancing in the aisles with one gentleman.

The Balkwills were ably supported by the four musicians who made up the Club Mystique band: Dustin Cottrell, musical director and pianist, Chris Bernstein on bass, Sam Cook on drums and Jay Hibbard on sax.

Following Saturday night’s production, audience members streamed across the street to the Woodruff Building for the after party. Here they discovered an array of hors d’oeuvres, fresh fruit and sweet treats to enjoy. A striking centerpiece composed of slender silver and gilt branches surrounded by fresh camellias highlighted with white fairy lights, added elegance and a definite touch of local color to the display.

Next up for the GAAC: its annual musical fundraiser, “Putting on the Ritz” with this year’s theme, “An Evening of Pure Imagination.”

The production is slated for April 27, 28 and 29.