An American In Paris
Review by Caroline Hanks-Farmer
Seeing An American in Paris made me ponder the question what constitutes the perfect musical? If I’m honest, I haven’t got the answer but I’m pretty sure having seen this production, that this is the closest you will ever get to seeing one on a West End stage.
An American in Paris is a musical play inspired by the 1951 Academy Award winning film of the same name. The film starred Gene Kelly and Lesley Caron and was directed by Vincente Minnelli. The story of the film is interspersed with dance numbers choreographed by Gene Kelly and set to Gershwin’s music. Songs and music include “I Got Rhythm”, “I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise”, “ ’S Wonderful”, and “Love is Here to Stay”. The film’s climax is “The American in Paris” ballet. It opened at the Palace Theatre on Broadway in April 2015, following an engagement at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. The musical won several Tony Awards. Surprisingly it closed just eighteen months later and embarked on its US national tour.
The announcement that it was coming to London back last April I’m sure meant I wasn’t alone in counting down the days until it’s hotly anticipated arrival. This is a big gloriously Hollywood production. With lavish costumes and extremely innovative projected scenery. Along with the heavenly crystal clear orchestrations, this production is sublime from opening to closing notes. And all of this before we’ve even discussed the individual performances.
Robert Fairchild (Jerry Mulligan) trained at the American ballet before joining the New York City ballet and quickly rising to principal dancer in 2009. Whilst Leanne Cope (Lise Dassin) began her training at the Dorothy Coleborn School of Dance. The Royal Ballet School followed, a graduating into the company in 2003. Both are reprising their roles that they originated on Broadway and were nominated for Tony awards. It’s easy to see why. They give outstanding performances, charismatic and effortless. Gliding in their dances making them absolutely adorably mesmerising to watch, just perfection personified.
Whilst undoubtedly the show centres around Cope and Mulligan this is an ensemble piece. Every single person on that stage makes you feel that they are giving you their performance of a lifetime.
Of course here are many other notable performances. Haydn Oakley as Henri Baurel and David Seaddon-Young as Adam Hochberg made great supporting actors and I particularly enjoyed their numbers as the trio of friends/rivals. It was a joy to see Jane Asher’s return to the West End stage playing Madame Baurel, a truly class act. As was Zoë Rainey in her role as Milo Davenport.
This is quite simply a magical show, sumptuous, seductive and gloriously divine. The music soars as only Gershwin’s music can. Words actually failed me after my visit such was its beauty.
When the reviews are released, this is undoubtedly going to be the hottest ticket in town so don’t delay book here today.
This in my mind is the definition of a perfect musical – Who could ask for anything more?