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An American in Paris: sheer musical magic

| Theatre | 31/03/2017

An American in Paris © Dominion Theatre

By Sandip Kana

In 1951, An American in Paris wowed film fans with its elegant blend of music and ballet.  It is no surprise that over 60 years later, the stage production at the Dominion Theatre is equally as mesmerising.  With Christopher Wheeldon in charge of direction and choreography, and Bob Crowley employing masterful set designs, the musical is an explosion of colour and irresistible movement.  For all the show lacks in dialogue, it certainly delivers in dance and visuals.

An American in Paris © Tristram KentonThe play opens with the 1945 liberation of Paris, where the swastika-adorned banners are transformed into the tricolour.  However, we are constantly reminded that scars remain deep and the days that followed formed a dark chapter in Paris’ long and colourful history.

In the foreground, the main story revolves around an ex-GI, Jerry Mulligan, who falls in love with a sexy Parisian ballerina, Lise.  Unbeknown to him, he has two love rivals vying for her affections in the form of aspiring nightclub singer Henri and a war-maimed composer named Adam.  Lise’s choice is not an easy one, but then it never is in love stories.

The storyline is engaging enough, if a little unoriginal.  However, Bob Crowley’s set designs form the more stunning aspects of the production: his intelligent use of mesmerising and vibrant colours transforms the stage into a moving art gallery.  The designs are nothing less than a marvel.  The final ballet is a case in point: geometric shapes help evoke the idea of liberation and hope that Parisians clung onto in these dark days.  Wheeldon’s choreography is equally impressive, using routines that seem to form part of the characters’ everyday lives.

An American in Paris © Tristram KentonAs for the characters themselves, Robert Fairchild is excellent as Jerry, reprising Gene Kelly’s role in the film.  His ability effortlessly to integrate his acting prowess with singing and dancing capabilities is astonishing.  Leanne Cope as Lise is a true beauty on the stage and surpasses all expectations in her dance numbers.

If the two central characters are close to perfection, the supporting cast is nearly as strong, with Zoe Rainey and Haydan Oakley commanding presences.

Overall, the acting, singing and dancing abilities of the cast achieve a technical feat not many West End productions can live up to.  With four Tony Awards already under its belt, An American in Paris is sheer musical magic.

An American in Paris is playing at the Dominion Theatre in the West End until 30th September 2017.  For tickets, head here.

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