The Theatreguide.London Review
American In Paris
Dominion Theatre 2017
Tuneful, dance-full and colourful, this Broadway import is a total delight and an early contender for musical of the year.
It is based, of course, on the 1951 movie, which was itself inspired by the need to make use of some George and Ira Gershwin songs the studio owned.
The stage version's writer, Craig Lucas, has tightened up the film's minimal plot. Now all three men, the would-be painter, would-be composer and would-be song-and-dance man, are in love, not realising until near the end that it's with the same girl.
The painter also has a side attachment to a rich patroness (somewhat softened and de-villainised from the film), and setting the action just after the Second World War allows for a few unobtrusively darker shadows.
The lead roles are played by Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, both established ballet stars, he with the New York City Ballet and she with the Royal Ballet, and even more than the Gene Kelly film, this stage musical is built on dance.
Director-choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is the real star here, brilliant at using dance to set scenes, move plot, characterise and just generate theatrical beauty and excitement. While the solos and duets he gives his stars are excellent, his real genius is for large groups.
An opening Parisian-scene-setting ballet is lovely, while the first act climax is an extended dance sequence that covers pages and pages of plot without a word of dialogue. Fidgety Feet and Stairway To Paradise are the occasions for big glitzy Broadway production numbers.
And the climactic ballet, less episodic and more of-a-piece than the film version, harks back to the days of Agnes DeMille and George Balanchine, when classical ballet of the highest order had a place of honour in the Broadway musical.
When this show's run is over, that big number should find a home in the repertoire of an imaginative ballet company.
Wheeldon has the rare skill and imagination to have his dancers break unison and do different movements that magically blend together, and the even rarer ability to start with or insert seemingly awkward poses or movements and then develop them into beauty and excitement.
In addition to dancing brilliantly, the two leads sing and act more than adequately, and get strong dramatic and singing support from David Seadon Young (composer), Haydn Oakley (entertainer) and Zoe Rainey (patroness).
The only criticism to make of An American In Paris is that it sometimes strays into a cold distance from its emotional centre, with Bob Crowley's inventive sets, projections and animations threatening to call attention to themselves in a show-off way rather than serving the show, and with excessive amplification that breaks any connection between what you hear and what you see, so that you sometimes have to search the stage to see who's talking or singing.
Be aware that the two leads are absent 'at certain performances', their roles taken by designated alternates.
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Review - An American In Paris - Dominion Theatre 2017