StageScan Pick: An American in Paris

An American in Paris?

An American in Paris has opened at the Dominion theatre to 4.5-star average pro reviews, including nine fives. Sarah Crompton (What’s on Stage) explained: “Writer Craig Lucas and director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon have effectively created a new musical, which grounds the love of GI Jerry Mulligan for the Parisian waif Lise in the realities of post-war Paris”. Michael Billington (Guardian) described “a magical transformation” with “radically improved” story and “a wealth of Gershwin classics” while “it is the look of the show that stuns”. Mark Shenton (The Stage) admired Wheeldon’s “intricate command of both narrative and bold stage pictures” and Crompton enjoyed “unique texture and tone”.

Billington detected “a touch of genius” in Bob Crowley’s designs that “not only seem part of the choreography but also offer a painterly kaleidoscope” and Crompton described “a fleet and gorgeous mixture of stage flats and projections”. Shenton saw “Paris… magically conjured in line drawings that come to life”.

Crompton said Wheeldon “lets his action flow” and “plays to his strengths” in ballet as “in a succession of dazzling sequences” he lets dance “tell the story… whisking Lise and Jerry through their romance in danced duets rather than sung ones”. Billington described a show “never still” as “he lets dance emerge out of daily life” and Crompton found the choreography’s “bold use of balletic idiom, mixed with a more casual musical style… striking”.

Crompton saw “his purpose and instinct… perfectly served by his stars”. Shenton thought the two dancers “both effortless singers as well as dazzling movers” and Crompton felt they “inhabit” their musical theatre lead roles “fully”. She saw in Robert Fairchild as Jerry “the sly, sexy instincts of a Broadway hoofer” and “a megawatt charm”. Billington thought him “excellent” with “the capacity to glide effortlessly into a number”.

Most praise went to Leanne Cope, whom Billington found “beguiling”. Crompton felt she’s “grown into her role” since the show opened in Paris, adding “always a graceful dancer, now she sings and acts with a quiet confidence, creating a fully-rounded portrait” of Lise and giving “a glorious show its gentle heart”.

Crompton thought all roles “well-played”, also finding Jane Asher “striking”. Billington judged the supporting cast “impeccable”, highlighting Haydn Oakley who “lends Henri an unexpected complexity”, and “highly stylish” Zoe Rainey and “suitably wry” David Seadon-Young.

Billington felt “as if the tarnished silver of the Vincente Minnelli movie has been turned into theatrical gold”. Shenton hailed “a gorgeous, completely enveloping portrait of post-war Paris” declaring it “sheer musical theatre magic”. Crompton found it “unlike any other musical on the London stage: sumptuously beautiful and heartfelt” with “a romantic pizzazz all of its own” proclaiming: “S’wonderful.”

Currently booking to 30 Sep 2017 with tickets available from StageScan. And for more sublime ballet-theatre, there’s another chance to catch Matthew Bourne’s 4.2-star The Red Shoes as its tour visits Wimbledon in April, with tickets from ATG.

Don’t forget to buy your tickets through StageScan where available. You’ll get all the safeguards you’d expect from our ticketing partners, SeeTickets, while supporting the site at no extra cost.

StageScan Pick: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter Theatre received all positive ratings from pro reviewers, with five awarding five stars. Henry Hitchings (ES) hailed a “fierce revival” of Edward Albee’s “lacerating Sixties play”. Mark Shenton (The Stage) described this “dark, sour portrait of a marriage” in a “finely calibrated production” by James Macdonald. Michael Billington (Guardian), noting it’s also “a comment on the state of the Union” suggested this production “scores heavily” because “rooted in psychological realism” and Andrzej Lukowski (Time Out), despite arriving “braced for impact,” found it “unexpectedly shattering” because “horribly, plausibly human”.

Hitchings hailed “a performance of wounding intensity”, from Imelda Staunton in which “Initially… the laughs come thick and fast” then, “in the frenzy of debate” she’s “sharper than an assassin’s dagger, yet… every bit as memorable in the play’s quieter moments”. Lukowski agreed she’s “as good as you’d hope – playful, witty and malicious, but also desperately, desperately vulnerable, lonely and sensitive”. Billington thought her particularly “magnificent” and “memorable” in moments of “desolate sadness” and Shenton admired a “ferocious howl of existential crisis”.

Hitchings declared Conleth Hill “superb” detecting “both violence and a malign cleverness” and Billington agreed he “superbly suggests an old scrapper… a pensive intellectual who delights in scoring points” yet “never lets you forget” his “despairing marital love”. For Lukowski he was “the real revelation… peculiar, frightening… charming and even likeable, but with a shockingly caustic nastiness underneath”.

Hitchings saw the actors “fathom the depths” of this “poisonous duet” and Shenton was thrilled by “how delicately the balance of power keeps shifting”, glimpsing “an underlying kindness, affection and amusement that has kept them together”. Billington found “watching the two of them pummel each other… exhausting” yet “ultimately uplifting and cathartic”.

Billington also thought “the young couple… excellently portrayed” and Lukowski hailed a “world class cast”, suggesting Luke Treadaway “clearly relishes the chance to be a selfish drunken shit”. Hitchings found him “plausible” and thought Imogen Poots “skilfully suggests the jittery bewilderment” of his wife. Billington felt she “strikingly” portrays this “childlike” character and Lukowski found her “painfully sad and sweet”.

Billington thought the play “tragic” yet “optimistic” in that the couple “finally shed their illusions”, hailing “one of those rare occasions when play, performance and production perfectly coalesce”.  Hitchings felt “Macdonald’s precise and finely balanced production ensures that this modern classic still feels lethal, the humour is merciless and the pain exquisite.” Lukowski, suggesting “the hosts’ performance” could potentially seem “a familiar ritual” found that “here it all feels horribly fresh and avoidable… uniquely disastrous,” and described a “horrible, vertiginous sense of fast-moving tragedy, of crashing descent”. Shenton agreed the “brutal and bracing” play “all feels too plausibly, unbearably real” here, finding it “utterly heartbreaking”.

Currently booking to  27 May 2017 with tickets still available from Stagescan.  And don’t forget to book ahead for Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?.