Dominion Theatre, London
‘S wonderful, ‘s marvellous to see old-fashioned musicals making a comeback on to the West End scene – not least this gloriously beautiful and exquisite production.
Christopher Wheeldon has created a classy, elegant production based on the hit film starring Gene Kelly, transporting audiences back to 1945 Paris with dance and music being placed firmly in the centre of the story and only minimal dialogue to enhance certain points.
That might seem disingenuous to say, but in this case it actually works in drawing audiences into the story, showing the power of music and dance on their own terms in conveying the story.
Jerry Mulligan is an American GI who wants to pursue his dream of becoming a painter in the City of Light. It is then that he encounters a beautiful and talented young dancer by the name of Lise, who has secrets of her own that puts her in a difficult position of choosing between her heart or her sense of duty.
The story might place romance at the centre of it, but Wheeldon’s production also successfully conveys the story of a city that is struggling to deal with the aftermath of the second World War, a city that still remains on edge as seen during the blackout during the ‘I Got Rhythm’ sequence. It celebrates Paris as being the centre of the arts, focusing particularly on dance and art.
Of course much of the appeal for An American in Paris is the glorious music created by George and Ira Gershwin, with memorable numbers such as ‘S Wonderful and But Not For Me being gloriously performed by the cast. But there are memorable sequences that focus purely on the dancing and the way in which it compliments the music, particularly seen in the opening number Concerto in F – effectively setting the scene swiftly.
But visually, this is a beautiful set to look at, with Bob Crowley’s designs providing enough to look at and enjoy but without cluttering the stage to allow plenty of space for Wheeldon’s choreography to really standout. It is particularly worth mentioning the gorgeous projections, that enhance the cultural strand to the story and the city in which it is set, with many image appearing as drawings or paintings in a elegant style.
The cast also deliver in spades, with Robert Fairchild as Jerry proving charismatic with just a hint of arrogance and of course dancing that could potentially be seen as on par with Gene Kelly’s. He is equally matched in grace and style with Leanne Cope as Lise – suitably headstrong and internally conflicted, particularly seen in The Man I Love sequence – perhaps of the the two she is given more character wise to work with, but it is a partnership that works and I hope in the future we see them work together again. Meanwhile, Jane Asher as Madame Baurel adds a sharpness to proceedings that compliments the niceness of the other characters.
Effectively though this musical is all about the dancing, with Christopher Wheeldon fully embracing the music to create choreography that hits the spot over and over again. His charming approach to both the production and the choreography adds more depth to the original story along with a book by Craig Lucas that means An American in Paris really hits the heart.
Romantic, stunningly performed and beautiful to watch An American in Paris deserves to stay in the West End to charm as many audiences as possible. I don’t say this lightly- it is practically perfect in every way.
An American in Paris is currently booking at the Dominion Theatre until 30th September 2017. To book tickets visit: Ticketmaster.co.uk, Last Minute.com, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.