A ballet fan? See An American in Paris? Prefer the soft shoe? Don’t miss An American In Paris. Fancy a song? You’ll love An American in Paris. Feel like an intriguing tale of romance and post-war joie de vivre? Get along to An American in Paris.
You get the gist. An American In Paris has it all, dare I say, even more. This Broadway masterpiece leaves every whim satisfied, every notion you ever imagined musical theatre to be, consummated, and if it’s the first and last musical you see this year, you’ve won.
Let’s push aside the obvious. An American in Paris has been nominated for 12 Tony Awards, (it won four ) and numerous others, including three Fred And Adele Astaire Awards which celebrate outstanding dance and choreography in theatre. So the show has obvious cred. Of course, it will appeal to audience members who remember the 1951 film (Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron) and recall the marvellous showbiz days when it was taken for granted that performers could sing, dance AND act. But seeing that old magic translate to stage more than half a century later, aided an abetted by 21st century technology, that’s a game changer to impress both old and new generations.
It’s a simple enough plot. Set in Paris after the 1945 liberation and where American GI Jerry Mulligan (Robbie Fairchild) is staying on to pursue his passion for painting. Along the way, he meets fellow veteran and pianist Adam Hochberg (Jonathan Hickey) and local Henri Baurel (Sam Ward) who’s hiding his inner desire to perform from his wealthy parents. Enter dancer Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope) and you have a love story complicated by secrets and marvellous twists and turns which leave you wondering who will actually get the girl. After all, they’re all deserving fellas.
Toss in a supporting cast, including the sultry manipulative heiress Milo Davenport (Ashleigh Rubenach), the acerbic Madame Baurel (Anne Wood) and an ensemble from the Australian Ballet making its first foray into musical theatre and you have the wow! factor.
Of course you also have the Gershwin effect. The film was inspired by George Gerwshin’s 1928 jazz orchestral piece An American In Paris, no doubt inspired by the composer’s own experience as an accomplished painter and his two trips to Paris. Be delighted further by George’s music brother Ira’s lyrics with I got Rhythm, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, ‘S Wonderful, and extras including They Can’t Take that Away and the Man I love.
Fairchild, a former Principal Dancer at the New York City Ballet and the original Mulligan when American in Paris premiered in Paris in 2014, and Broadway Palace Theatre a year later, is just extraordinary. Perfectly in character, stunningly in tune, and oozing with relentless charisma, he slides and leaps around the stage with acrobatic ease, literally as if dancing on air. Cope, meanwhile, (Royal Ballet School,) and also an original cast member, is exquisitely vulnerable, her face telling all as she sings and dances, exuding delicious hints to what lies beneath her innocent façade.
How do we know we’re in Paris? Astounding technology and projections from 59 Productions takes care of that, bringing Mulligan’s own sketches to life from the lights of Paris twinkling on one-by-one, to the waves of the Seine rippling and splashing when Mulligan falls in. Meanwhile, renowned set and costume designer Bob Crowley slides us seamlessly from cafes to dressing rooms to department store, from top hats to sequins to those wonderful full-swinging skirts.
This is not just an American in Paris, this is a show for everyone. It takes us all there, back to a different time, when life was challenging, but just a little more simple.