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A CurtainUp London Review
An American in Paris
"You will never go wrong, never go wrong, never go wrong
If you toddle along, toddle along, toddle along.
All I need's a partner to make my life complete -
Two more fidgety, fidgety feet."
— Lyric to "Fidgety Feet"
An American in Paris
Cast in Showgirl scene (Photo: Johan Persson)
It is the large Broadway import this visually spectacular show of brilliant set pieces, sets and costumes which won Tony awards in 2015. The tunes are Gershwin's and the orchestra is excellent. My editor described it as a dansical but I think that ballet is probably the more accurate description as most of the dancers are ballet trained and the big dance numbers are more often based on balletic leaps and lifts and wildly romantic, expressive gestures.

Bob Crowley's designed sets mesmerise as we are introduced to Parisian buildings through a sketchbook or with chalk on a blackboard. The German flags featuring the swastika are replaced with the Parisian Tricolor, recently a symbol of solidarity with the French people in the face of terrorism. The introductory dance of post war time reunions for those who have been away fighting is evocative and poignant. Just as a woman is ready to turn away as her lover doesn't appear and we fear the worst, he does arrive and we share the emotional relief. We also see the cruel treatment meted out to a woman who has presumed to have collaborated with the Germans.

London is very fortunate to have two of the New York principals who have come with the show. Robert Fairchild plays Jerry Mulligan, the demobbed American soldier who becomes an artist and who falls for the pretty ballet dancer Lise Dassin played by Leanne Cope, the other principal to travel with the show but herself a graduate of our Royal Ballet School. The story isn't as uncomplicated as the love story between Jerry and Lise as she is promised to Henri Baurel (Haydn Oakley) the son of the family that has protected Lise, who is Jewish, from the German occupation of France. There is another American, composer Adam Hochberg (David Seadon-Young), damaged by his experiences in the war, who is romantically involved with the lovely Lise. Henri's parents are played by the stiffly, unsympathetic Jane Asher as his mother Madame Baurel, whose French accent comes and goes, as when she gets cross, she is pure received pronunciation English and Julian Forsyth as Monsieur Baurel who has less to do than to waltz with his wife.

We first meet Lise when she arrives late for a ballet audition having rushed from her day job at the department store Galeries Lafayette. Later the store itself is created with the shop assistants and their customers and supervisors. This gives a picture of shopping in Paris with its high end stock and fastidious clientele. Foxed mirror glide across the stage in an ever moving visual divertissement.

It is Bob Crowley too who is responsible for the fabulous clothes of the 1940s. Zoe Rainey plays Milo Davenport, a rich American benefactress of the arts and wannabe girlfriend of Jerry Mulligan. The modern art gallery scene shows the art works in frames and artists in black berets and black outfits. Later the modern art theme is adopted for the big dance number illustrating the primary colour blocks for the ballet designed by Jerry and composed by Adam and featuring as principal dancer, Lise. The Second Act opens with "Fidgetty Feet" as everyone catches the fidgeting and all are soon on their feet to express themselves in dance.

Christopher Wheeldon is the director /choreographer who takes credit for expanding the minimal story line into a dance spectacle in a creative way. The Gershwin tunes are wonderful but not especially relevant so it is down to the dance numbers to progress the simple storyline. Watch out for the nightclub scene with the fabulous showgirls and the harlequinade of the masked ball.

For Elyse Sommer's review of the New York production in 2015 and the complete song list go here.

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An American in Paris
Composers George and Ira Gershwin
Book by Craig Lucas
Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon
Starring: Robert Fairchild, Leanne Cope, David Seadon-Young, Haydn Oakley, Zoe Rainey, Jane Asher, Julian Forsyth, Ashley Andrews, Julia J Nagle, Ashley Day, Daniela Norman
With: Sophie Apollonia, Sarah Bakker, James Barton, Alicia Beck, Chrissy Brooke, Jonathan Caguioa, Jennifer Davison, Katie Deacon, Alyn Hawke, Nicky Henshall, Robin Kent, Kristen McGarrity, Max Westwell, Jack Wilcox, Liam Wrate
Swings: Zoe Arshamian, James Butcher, Rebecca Fennelly, Sebastian Goffin, Genevieve Heron, Amy Hollins, Frankie Jenna, Justin-Lee Jones, Pippa Raine, Aaron Smyth, Todd Talbot, Carrie Willis, Stuart Winter
Set and Costume Design: Bob Crowley
Musical Supervisor: Todd Elison
Orchestrations: Christopher Austin, Bill Elliott
Musical Director: John Rigby
Dance Arrangements: Sam Davis
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Jon Weston
Projections designed by 59 Projections Ltd
Musical Score adapted, arranged and supervised by Rob Fisher
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0845 200 7982
Booking to 30th September 2017
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 23rd March 2017 performance at The Dominion, Tottenham Court Road London W1T 7AQ
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