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.
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