Globetrotting and Gershwin

Former ‘Amazing Race’ winner starts a new cross-country journey as star of ‘An American in Paris’

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During their winning sprint around the globe for the 13th season of “The Amazing Race” in 2008, actor Nick Spangler and his ex-Dallas Cowboys cheerleader sister, Starr, covered eight countries in 23 days. While his current trip — as Henri Baurel in the North American tour of “An American in Paris” — won’t be as much of a whirlwind, he says it is every bit as exciting.

“With ‘The Amazing Race,’ you wanted to pack as minimally as humanly possible. I had a backpack and that was it,” he said. “For this trip, I’m traveling with my wife and my 14-month-old son in a car loaded to the brim, and we’ll spend 12 months on the road. It’s a much longer haul this time.”

“An American in Paris” will be in Greenville for eight performances from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4. Inspired by the 1951 Academy Award-winning film, “An American in Paris” is the romantic story of an American soldier, a mysterious French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war.

“The show is incredible. The role is incredible,” said Spangler, who was in the original Broadway casts of “The Book of Mormon,” Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” and “It Should Have Been You.” “I’ve never been happier in my life.”

The role of Henri, the soldier’s romantic rival and a Parisian aristocrat, is bigger on stage than it was in the 1951 movie starring Gene Kelly. Henri gets engaged to the French girl, Lise, but winds up realizing she’s not truly in love with him.

“Henri is really like a gallant gentleman, even though it breaks his heart to let her go and he knows it’s the right thing to do,” Spangler said.

Spangler said landing a role in “American in Paris” was daunting because the show’s choreography is heavily influenced by ballet and the majority of the members of the company are ballerinas. “The early days of rehearsal were terrifying,” he said. “But at the same time, because a lot are dancers, they may not have sung or acted on stage, so I was somebody they could turn to in that regard. It really was a great sharing of talents. We all were able to grow and learn together.”

The stage show, directed by 2015 Tony Award-winner Christopher Wheeldon, features the same George and Ira Gershwin music as the movie did. “One of the real cool things is that if you saw the movie and loved the movie, you’ll love the show. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll still love the show,” said Spangler, who also drew rave reviews for his Off-Broadway performance as Matt in “The Fantasticks.” “We deliver a classic story with classic music in a contemporary way.”

What: “An American in Paris”

Where: Peace Center

When: Nov. 29–Dec. 4

Tickets: $25 to $85

Information: 864-467-3100 or peacecenter.org

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