Inspired by the Oscar-winning 1951 musical film starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron – and first seen in 2014 in Paris and in 2015 on Broadway – An American in Paris is now dancing up a storm in the West End at the Dominion Theatre, with both leads firmly in place: the Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope and New York City Ballet’s Robert Fairchild.
One of George and Ira Gershwin’s most beloved musicals, An American in Paris tells the story of American GI Jerry Mulligan, an aspiring painter trying to make his way in Paris, who falls in love with young ballet dancer Lise.
The show received a phenomenal 22 five-star reviews after officially opening at the Dominion Theatre two weeks ago (Tuesday 21 March). Here we round up the reviews.
Photography by Tristram Kenton
It is undoubtedly Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography that steals the limelight. “The dancing is, if not the star, then certainly the moon” explains Anne Treneman (The Times: ★★★★★). Michael Arditti (Sunday Express: ★★★★★) agrees, describing it as being “of the highest calibre”, offering vibrant ensembles, jazzy solos and swooning duets. As pleasantly summed up by Ann Treneman, the balletic choreography, at times, truly takes your breath away.
Set & Costume Design
Mark Shenton (The Stage: ★★★★★) describes An American in Paris as a rare show where the designs also dance. The magnificent set and costume design by Bob Crowley, which are said to have “a touch of genius” (Michael Billington, The Guardian: ★★★★★), come an extremely close second to the choreography. The back-lit screens and sketches of rainy Parisian streets that change before your eyes are “so beautiful that you cannot help but fall in love with the city, too” (Ann Treneman, The Times). Further, the production, drenched in vivid colours, has a “visual splendour that few musicals can match” (Neil Norman, Express: ★★★★★).
In terms of music, the show offers lashings of gorgeous melody (Sarah Hemming, Financial Times: ★★★★★) and an eclectic range of Gershwin songs (Michael Billington, The Guardian). Rob Fisher eloquently adapts and arranges the musical score, including additional songs from the Gershwin catalogue (I Got Rhythm, ‘S Wonderful, They Can’t Take That Away From Me) to keep the show afloat, even in its darker moments (Neil Norman, Express).
Wheeldon’s production has the luxury, original casting of New York Ballet’s Robert Fairchild and the Royal Ballet principal Leanne Cope, who are both effortless singers as well as “dazzling movers” (Mark Shenton, The Stage). Fairchild is excellent as Jerry: on top of being able to act and sing, he has the capacity to “glide effortlessly into a number” (Michael Billington, The Guardian). And gliding through them all is the “captivating Leanne Cope” (Georgina Brown, Daily Mail: ★★★★★), an exceptional ballet dancer blessed with a lovely voice.
Aside from the first-class leads, the support is labelled “impeccable” by Michael Billington (The Guardian) – Haydn Oakley lends an unexpected complexity; Zoe Rainey is an eminently stylish Milo, and David Seadon-Young is suitably sardonic as the aggrieved composer.
An American in Paris – Overall
Overall, Mark Shenton (The Stage) gives much credit to Wheeldon for his “intricate command of both narrative and bold stage pictures”, in what is only his second time working on a musical. Similarly, Quintenn Letts (Daily Mail: ★★★★★) encourages us not to gripe about the staleness of the story, but instead celebrate the repeatedly inventive staging of Wheeldon and his designer Bob Crowley.
An American in Paris has been showered in well-deserved five-star reviews from top critics, most notably from Shenton in The Stage, Treneman in The Times, and Letts in The Daily Mail, to name just a few. As eloquently put by Norman (Express), this Gerwshin-inspired show may not be the only musical-ballet hybrid, but it is almost certainly the best.
For a ‘S Wonderful, ‘S Marvellous, ‘S Awful Nice evening, book your tickets to An American In Paris now.