If ever there was a candidate for the perfect musical it must surely be this utterly spell binding production that has sailed in from Broadway. The heady mix of a glorious Gershwin score and some of the most sumptuous stage designs currently to be seen in the West End make for an utterly joyous night.
It is the former Royal Ballet and thoroughly British dancer and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon that is behind this dazzling piece of dance led musical theatre. Wheeldon has captured the worlds of ballet and dance the world over but this is his first stab at directing a Broadway show. Premiering in Paris three years ago it shone brightly on the Great White Way before travelling across the pond with its two exceptional leads in tow.
It is those two leads that are the absolute icing on this already delicious cake. In Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope Wheeldon has found two stars that easily compare to the films original Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, and that is a statement that I don’t make lightly!
Opening with the departure of the Nazi’s from occupied Paris in 1945 the locals are taking a while to adjust to life. Whilst only fleetingly referred to in the narrative it is enough to establish the setting. Bob Crowley’s designs that are brought to spectacular life with 59 Productions stunning projection work is choreographed just as beautifully as the dancing company onstage. Splashing the monochromatic post war Paris with life is achieved with such artistic aplomb that you can’t help but be filled with joy as the gargantuan Dominion stage is bathed in colour.
As Jerry Mulligan the demobbed American GI that has decided to settle in Paris Robert Fairchild has it all. He sings with ease and looks every inch the dashing Hollywood heart-throb. He dances with such power and vigour that it is easy to see why Leanne Cope’s elegant and poised Lise falls head over heels for him. Cope is stunningly understated with a beautiful naivety about her that makes her every move purposeful and utterly delightful to watch.
To make up the trio of friends with Fairchild all of whom hold the same candle for Lise are a wonderfully dishevelled David Seadon-Young as Adam and a delightfully clumsy Haydn Oakly as Henri who manages to stop the show with his Stairway to Paradise number that is sheer old fashioned MGM style musical magic. Jane Asher provides a touch of class as Madame Baurel with Zoe Rainey gives an emotionally charged edge to her Milo Davenport.
With a magnificent orchestra under the direction of John Rigby to play a score of Gershwin hits (not all of which were in the original film) An American in Paris is nothing short of divine. This one is an absolute must see!