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Review: An American in Paris, at Dominion Theatre

Exhilarating musical is like a jukebox for much-loved songs

31 March, 2017 — By Howard Loxton

Haydn Oakley, centre, with the cast of An American in Paris. Photo: Johan Persson

INSPIRED by the Vincente Minnelli film with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, this new musical, directed and choreographed by former Royal Ballet’s Christopher Wheeldon, makes similar use of George Gershwin’s orchestral An American in Paris.

Its story is similar, the love of three men for the same girl, but now she’s a ballerina, which is one of the new details from the book by Craig Lucas.

This production opened in Paris for a short season before transferring to Broadway where it won four Tony Awards.

Now it’s here. There is a piano on stage where war-wounded composer Adam (David Seadon-Young) starts telling the story of himself, artist Jerry (Robert Fairchild), both GIs who stayed on in Paris when the Second World War ended, and would-be song and dance man Henri, whose family sheltered Lise (Leanne Cope), the girl they all love, through the war years.

It sets the scene of transition from German occupation to liberation and the war’s end in a ballet sequence that sets the visually stunning style of the show, with Bob Crowley’s scenery made up of moving elements and projections that, like the film’s final ballet, echo the style of different French painters.

Jerry gets involved with a rich American Milo (Zoë Rainey) who promotes him among her artistic circle. He gets to design a ballet that Adam is commissioned to write and Lise gets the lead in: the An American in Paris ballet which is very different to Kelly’s version with its design inspired by Mondrian and Matisse.

In some ways you could call this a jukebox musical for it’s packed with much-loved songs, their inclusion sometimes a little contrived, and the dialogue scenes rather restricted, but the singing is splendid and the dance excellent and an essential part of the storytelling.

It is a very strong company, including Jane Asher as Andre’s socially self-conscious mother.

Though the plot may still be quite lightweight, the choreography, design, dancing and music more than make up for that. The effect is exhilarating.

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