“Who could ask for anything more”
True to its name, An American in Paris premiered in 2014 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in the French capital to ecstatic reviews before transferring to the Palace Theatre on Broadway for another well-received (and Tony-winning) run there. It now rocks up at the newly refurbished Dominion Theatre, just ahead of another huge dance-heavy Broadway musical in 42nd Street, producers clearly banking on audiences wanting distraction from the realities of the outside world.
And that it certainly provides – director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s reinvention of the 1951 film (new book by Craig Lucas) is an absolute feast for the eyes and ears. George and Ira Gershwin’s score is beyond classic (‘I Got Rhythm’, ”S Wonderful’, ‘They Can’t Take That Away from Me’ et al) and sounds luscious in Rob Fisher’s new arrangements musically directed by John Rigby, and Bob Crowley’s set and costumes look divine in all their old-school charm.
But, and you could tell there was a but coming couldn’t you, it suffers from a paper-thin book (in the same way that 42nd Street does) and that means you’re too often left hanging between the production numbers, as spectacular as they are. Robert Fairchild’s GI-who-wants-to-be-an-artist and Leanne Cope’s dancer-with-a-secret dance gorgeously around the streets of post-war Paris but it’s not the most gripping of stories despite their efforts, and neither are the singers you dream of for musical theatre leads.
A charismatic supporting cast do their best with limited characters – Haydn Oakley, Zoe Rainey, the estimable Jane Asher – but it’s the dance you come for and there’s no mistaking the extraordinary talents of both Fairchild and Cope here. Reflecting Wheeldon’s career, the dance is classically inspired rather than musical theatre through and through, a lengthy ballet section provides the climax, with hardly any tap featuring (that’s coming in Drury Lane never fear!) making this a different kind of crowd-pleaser, but still pleasing nonetheless.