Director and choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, promised something special with An American In Paris and he doesn’t disappoint.
The ‘S Wonderful musical has opened at the newly restored Dominion Theatre, in the West End, to unprecedented, and entirely justified, praise.
This slick, stylish musical, featuring the sublime songs of George and Ira Gershwin, could run and run. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket, but see this show.
Critics can be very cynical especially when faced with a barrage of publicity for a Broadway show that has already earned its stripes in New York.
But on opening night it was impossible not to be swept along with the euphoria and the dazzling central performances of the show’s stars Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope.
Fairchild has all the grace and elegance of Gene Kelly, the star of the 1951 movie on which the musical is based. But his ballet background gives the US charmer an extra lift in his step as he pirouettes across the stage and leaps so high that you’d think he has wings.
His matinee idol good looks, charisma and phenomenal talent as a dancer here makes its debut on the UK stage. I think someone ought to steal his passport and not let him return home.
The star is only on a short-term contract and leaves the show in June. His spectacular dance steps will be filled by Britain’s Ashley Day.
Leanne Cope, who plays aspiring ballet star Lise Dassin – the part made famous in the movie by Leslie Caron – couldn’t work any harder in a show. She’s mesmerising as the gamine young girl desired by three determined men.
There are so many highlights in An American In Paris that its impossible to name just one. The big production numbers are sensational. The fantasy sequence accompanying I’ll Build A Stairway To Heaven is pure Busby Berkeley with showgirls, white tie and lots of pizzazz.
But the section that brought the first night audience to their feet, in mid show, was the surreal, avant garde ballet, simply called An American In Paris, which is breathtaking.
The musical, with a book by Craig Lucas, is set in Paris at the end of World War II. It’s 1945 and American artist Jerry Mulligan has been demobbed. Instead of returning home he roams the streets looking for inspiration – and finds it in a reluctant and elusive passer-by, Lise.
Later, he makes friends with a fellow ex-pat, Adam (David Seadon-Young) who is working as a piano player in a bar while trying to write serious music, and he tells him of the encounter.
“She’s an enigma,” says a smitten Jerry. “Sounds like a skin disease,” mocks Adam.
Through Adam, Jerry meets Henri who is trying to reinvent himself, with little success and in secret, as a cabaret star. The three become firm friends, and eventually work together to create a new ballet, not knowing that they all love the same woman who will be its star.
An American In Paris is unashamedly romantic. The Gershwins’ songs, like I Got Rhythm, The Man I Love and They Can’t Take That Away From Me, are classics which fit seamlessly into the story.
Jane Asher, as Henri’s overbearing mother, provides light relief with her heavily accented French and Zoe Rainey proves enchanting as rich art dealer and dilettante, Milo Davenport.
Bob Crowley’s costumes are to die for and the orchestra, under the leadership of John Rigby, make the music soar through the vast Dominion Theatre.
An American In Paris
‘S Wonderful. An American In Paris dazzles Audiences In London with its inspired choreography and outstanding turns by Robert Fairchild & Leanne Cope.