On 17th June, I visited the Dominion Theatre to see the West End production of An American in Paris, based on the 1951 Academy Award winning film of the same name. Whilst as a whole I did enjoy the show and the performances, I have to admit I didn’t see it in the same light as many others who have given it rave reviews – in fact, I found it quite dull at times, mainly due to the use of dance.
Christopher Wheeldon both directed and choreographed this show and whilst I found the choreography visually interesting and impressive, I felt as though certain portions of it weren’t necessary and didn’t actually enhance the story – in particular, the dance number which ended the second act and the show’s title number An American in Paris. Both of these numbers, whilst containing great choreography (especially the title number), just felt too long for the amount of story they were telling. Other numbers were thoroughly enjoyable however, especially I’ve Got Rhythm, I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck and Liza.
For the most part, projections are used instead of set which I’m not the biggest fan of in general, however I thought they worked quite well for the style of the show and were very beautiful (created by 59 Productions Ltd.). The small amount of set there was worked but wasn’t anything to write home about and due to the large size of the Dominion Theatre’s stage, it often felt quite empty. The costumes were lovely, minus the cubist and abstract design of the title number which I felt jarred with the rest of the show.
Robert Fairchild, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, played the lead role of painter Jerry Mulligan, and his ballet background really shone through with his effortless dancing. With a gorgeous voice and strong acting skills to match, Fairchild is a real triple threat and I do hope he stays around the London theatre scene. Playing opposite him as ballet dancer Lise Dassin was Royal Ballet alum Leanne Cope who did a great job with the bland part she had to play, showcasing a gorgeous and strong voice, as well as being a stunning ballerina. The show was definitely at its strongest when Cope and Fairchild were dancing together.
Supporting Cope and Fairchild as various love interests were Haydn Oakley as aspiring singer Henri Baurel, David Seadon-Young as composer Adam Hochberg, and Zoë Rainey as philanthropist Milo Davenport, each of whom I have seen previously. Every time I’ve seen Haydn Oakley perform in the past, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his performances and this was no different. He captured the essence of a struggling song and dance man extremely well, showcasing his talents in Act Two “showstopper” I’ll Build a Staircase to Paradise (which was actually quite underwhelming, due to the huge stage which made the number seem very sparse), whilst dealing with allusions to him being gay (which were never expanded on, something which could have made his character arc far more interesting). The last time I saw David Seadon-Young perform was in Assassins in 2015 where he gave a truly heartbreaking performance, and he was no less brilliant here, showing off his beautiful voice and giving a heartbreaking performance which pleasantly surprised me as I didn’t expect to be so moved in a show such as this. Zoë Rainey also fared extremely well, showing off her gorgeous belt and also giving a moving performance as she deals with her love for Jerry. Also featured were Jane Asher and Julian Forsyth as Monsieur and Madame Baurel, who were your typical strict parents who eventually softened to their son’s aspirations but neither were given enough to work with to make an impression.
If you’re a fan of old timey musicals and/or ballet, this show would definitely be one to check out! The role of Jerry Mulligan is now played by Ashley Day, except for Wednesday evenings when he is played by Max Westwell, and Daniela Norman plays Lise Dassin on Thursday evenings. Jane Asher will play her final performance on 2nd September 2017, with her replacement yet to be announced. The show is currently booking until 27th January 2018: check the website for updates – https://www.anamericaninparisthemusical.co.uk/