This stage version, inspired by the 1951 MGM film of the same name starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, is the realisation of a long-held dream for the Gershwin family. And they won’t have been disappointed. Featuring many of George and Ira Gershwin’s glorious Jazz Age songs and music, including I Got Rhythm, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, The Man I Love, They Can’t Take That Away From Me and ‘S Wonderful, spectacular performances from a cast of more than 50 and simply divine dancing, it’s not surprising it won four Tony Awards.
The themes may be familiar to musical fans – young love never running smooth, the struggle to pursue your dreams – but the treatment is not. There are breathtakingly dazzling Busby Berkley-style moments, but An American in Paris is no saccharine-sweet singalong. Set in postwar, newly liberated Paris, those dark days of damaged individuals and a fractured society are dramatically evoked.
Against this backdrop a young American GI, an aspiring artist, falls in love after a chance encounter with a dancer/shop girl. Though clearly enamoured with him, she feels duty-bound to marry another and an exploration of friendship and love ensues. Robert Fairchild as Jerry, the smitten GI, is a sublimely stylish ballet dancer, and Leanne Cope is captivating as the bewitching, beguiling and sweetly gamine Lise.
In many ways, though, the real star of the show is director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, artistic associate of The Royal Ballet. The beautiful dance sequences are not add-ons or interludes but an essential part of the storytelling itself. And designer Bob Crowley also merits a mention for his stunning sets, involving innovative projection, and charming vintage costumes.
You really couldn’t ask for anything more uplifting from a West End musical: you’ll emerge from the theatre with a song in your heart, a spring in your step and a beaming smile on your face. ‘S not to be missed.
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