Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Theatre Review: An American in Paris

There’s something special about seeing a musical on Broadway.

For reasons I can’t entirely explain, they just seem more at home amongst the bright lights and the bustle of the Great White Way. Big, glamorous, glitzy ‘traditional’ musicals were born on Broadway and there’s just something unique about seeing them in their natural environment.

Image source.

An American in Paris is very much the sort of big, glitzy musical that is just made for Broadway. Based on the 1950s Gene Kelly film of the same name, the show features the extraordinary music of the Gershwins and tells the story of Jerry, an American-GI-turned-painter, who decides to stay in Paris after his stint in the second world war where he falls in love with beautiful dancer Lise - a love which famously culminates in an almost 20 minute long ballet sequence.

Films, even musical films, don’t always make great stage shows - and putting a 20 minute ballet on a Broadway stage is certainly a daring move! - but An American in Paris does work; it works like a particularly glorious dream.

First of all the music - my god the music! - is by the Gershwins and therefore perfect. It’s almost worth calling An American in Paris a jukebox musical based on the number of Gershwin greatest hits it includes - I Got Rhythm and ‘S Wonderful are my personal highlights. They’re surrounded by a stunning score, particularly for the dance sequences and particularly particularly the famous ballet. The whole thing just sounds so gorgeous. The music alone makes the show worth seeing.

Second of all, the wonderful music is performed by a wonderful cast. It’s incredibly hard to believe that both Robert Fairchild (Jerry) and Leanne Cope (Lise) are ballet dancers making their Broadway débuts. I mean don’t get me wrong their dancing is phe-fucking-nominal (quoth my mum: “I never wanted that ballet bit to end”) but their singing and their acting is too. Fairchild in particular is a revelation; so charming and so charismatic that you (I) just want to eat him on a sandwich. He’s a force of nature in this show and I hope more Broadway - and West End, pleaseandthankyou - roles are to follow.

A more established supporting cast back them up with Max von Essen’s lovelorn Henri - who absolutely nails his tour de force solo, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise; the most sublime, elegant production number I've ever seen - and Brandon Uranowitz’s dry, sardonic Adam being my favourites. The whole cast is great though, just dripping with incredible dancers, and I actually feel a bit guilty about singling anyone out. Not guilty enough not to do it, obviously.

Third of all, the whole show just looks beautiful. From the stunning choreography - the big ballet sequence in particular is out of this world, but all of the routines are on point (pun intended) - to the incredible projected scenery to the beautiful 50s costumes everything is an utter delight. It’s so elegant, so glitzy, so smooth and so glamorous that it’s impossible not to get completely swept up in the entire production unless you’re, like, dead inside.

An American in Paris is a joyous production from top to bottom and start to finish. I'm aware that New York might be a bit of a stretch for some of my UK based readers, but for anyone local or who happens to find themselves in the New York area any time soon then this is a must see. And for everyone else, well, you can get a transatlantic flight for well below most people’s credit card limits these days. Just saying.

An American in Paris is playing at the Palace Theatre New York until November 22nd.

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