The Broadway sensation ‘An American in Paris‘ is now sweeping West End audiences off their feet with a show that exceeds any of your expectations. This production has thrilled audiences in Paris and New York alike and now London finally get to experience a sense of escapism like no other.
Anticipation filled the foyers of the beautiful Dominion Theatre as the audience of over 2,000 eagerly awaited the arrival of this show. Before the performance even begins, you know that you are going to love it.
The dark, plain, open stage preset gives you no clue to what you’re about to see and experience until the moment that the lights go down. David Seadon-Young is the first that we meet as the adorable Adam Hochberg, a role that almost guides us through the tale on the streets of Paris. David delivers the perfect blend of sarcasm and sweetness that sets the story rolling and quickly gains the love of the audience.
Within a blink of the eye, the empty stage is commanded by large Nazi swastikas that are instantly repossessed by a huge French flag in a sequence that can only be described as breathtaking. ‘Concerto in F’ follows with choreography that is beautifully enchanting and sets the bar high for the rest of the show. A stunning start which is worth the ticket price alone.
Inspired by the Oscar winning film, An American in Paris features many of Gershwin’s classics such as I Got Rhythm, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, They Can’t Take That Away From Me and ’S Wonderful. The story follows an American GI, Jerry Mulligan, pursuing his dream to make it as a painter in Paris in the aftermath of war. The city of light and love set the scene for the tale as he encounters a young dancer who instantly captures his heart.
Luckily, this transfer includes the original, award-winning Broadway stars that lead this production with pure ease and an abundance of elegance. Robert Fairchild who is reprising his role as Jerry Mulligan, grasps the audience firmly in the palm of his hand with a voice that melts your troubles away. He holds himself which such strength that each step makes him look like he has been dancing for a thousand years, and portrays the role with spellbinding beauty. Perfectly paired with Robert is the impeccable Leanne Cope, who is also reprising her role, as Jerry’s love affair, Lise Dassin. Leanne supplies an endless array of talent through a role that is petite and timid, elements which she makes us feel are pure and real, and manages to leave us thinking that the huge stage has shrunk down leaving the only spotlight to be on her. Leanne and Robert are truly mesmerising and together they are creating musical history in a performance that matches the greats.
The company of actors, dancers and musicians tops 50 and each one is sublime. John Rigby musically directs the 14-piece orchestra with excellence as the sound somehow manages to lift every soul in the incredibly vast house, something which most musicals can not achieve in a theatre of this size.
Ballet is given a whole new life in this production and adds a whole new dimension to musical theatre. To succeed at this, the ensemble has been excellently cast with 32 exquisite members (including swings) that exceed the phrase of ‘triple threats’ with some members even having to dance on pointe, without a fault may I add.
Haydn Oakley returns to the Dominion, after playing in We Will Rock You, as Henri Baurel, the soon-to-be finance of Lise. Haydn handles the role with such a wonderful warmth and smoothly obtains the audiences sympathy as he looses his love. Jane Asher as Madame Baurel is terrific and her short, snappy lines are expertly delivered with comic timing.
Milo Davenport is in the more than capable hands of Zoë Rainey. She commands attention whenever she appears and holds one of the strongest characters in the show with a superbly portrayed deep complex. ‘Shall We Dance’ is the strongest number in the show vocally as her voice soars to the very back of the auditorium.
This no expense-spared production is one that is incredibly modest as it doesn’t require any automated tracks for scenery, no trap doors for huge set pieces to transform us and no ‘magical’ special effects – it is purely backdrops and projections. And that is why it is currently the best staged show in the West End. It’s simple combination of flying flats and high-quality projections provide a whole new perspective on how scenery should be designed. Every scene is effortlessly merged into another with no big set changes needed. Bob Crowley has proven that his talent doesn’t stop at the lavish scenery for ‘Aladdin’ as he has reinvented himself with this subtle spectacle. Natasha Katz teams up with Bob once again to light the show. She has utterly exceeded herself with a design that compliments Crowley’s work without sacrificing the design of the projections. 59 Productions Ltd are the geniuses behind the ravishing, first-class projection designs and they really are the talking point of this shows production elements.
Particular credit must go to Christopher Wheeldon who has redefined the term ‘musical’ and has created a visual masterpiece that will go on to shape how theatre is created for years to come. He has taken an old classic and re-invented it to be a modern, sophisticated celebration of love and friendship, enhancing the arts to it is full potential.
Thank you to the cast and crew alike for helping me fall in love with theatre all over again.
★★★★★ S’ Wonderful, sensuous, delight. The musical of the century.
An American In Paris is currently booking until 30 September at the Dominion Theatre, London. To book tickets, click here.