An American in Paris at the Dominion Theatre
Watching this play is like escaping into a dream of Paris. Christopher Wheeldon lends the classic Gene Kelly and Vincente Minnelli film a new lease of life on the stage in an adaptation that expands on the climactic ballet sequences of the original work. Even the set changes seem to dance into each other. The way it looks and flows is reminiscent of the depiction of the ballet in Powell’s The Red Shoes. Featuring a memorable score of classic Gershwin hits such as I Got Rhythm, Liza, ‘S Wonderful, But Not for Me, Stairway to Paradise and orchestral music including the timeless title song, it is certainly one of the best musicals currently in the West End.
It begins with an American sitting on an empty stage by a piano narrating the basic premise of the story. The backdrop dissolves into a falling Nazi flag which transforms into a French flag and then Parisian streets projected onto panels are scattered around the stage. Everything is slick and captures the sense of a fragmented Paris that still retains its beauty and grace. The dancers are part of this vision of the French capital and they are utterly at place in the elegant streets. The play follows ballerina Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope) and the American artist Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild) as they fall for each other despite the obstacles. This simple love story is expanded for the stage through the dance sequences – including an enactment of Lise’s ballet.
Certain scenes are particularly imaginative such as when we see Jerry’s vision of his designs for his performnace projected onto the wall behind him whilst the composer, Adam Hochberg, writes the score in his flat. On other occasions this technique of splitting the stage and showing characters having conversations in different places simultaneously is used to great effect. Leanne Cope is so beautiful to watch; her dancing is emotive and quietly passionate. We can feel the chemistry between her and Fairchild every time they dance together.
It is hard to describe what is such a visual play. This is not a glitzy and over-the-top musical; it is subtle and emotive. It captures the magic of the past and beautifies our present while we watch it.
An American in Paris is at the Dominion Theatre from 4th March 2017 until 30th September 2017. Book your tickets here.