The Broadway smash brings big-scale ballet to the West End
Words: Millie Milliken Photos: Johan Persson
After a recent viewing of the original 1951 film of An American in Paris, it was hard for us to imagine anyone other than Gene Kelly in the role of ex-GI Jerry Mulligan. But then we saw Robert Fairchild in this new West End supershow. Even in the ensemble numbers, it’s hard to take your eyes off the New York City Ballet principal dancer, who juggles punchlines with pirouettes quite brilliantly.
The story follows Mulligan as he decides to stay in Paris after World War II to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. A chance encounter with pretty French dancer Lise (Leanne Cope) leads to a love triangle with duty and passion tugging in different directions.
The show itself looks like a painting. The streets of Paris are unveiled to the audience with figures and monuments appearing on set as if being drawn in real time. The Gershwin score conjures the romance of the original film – classic numbers like ‘I Got Rhythm’ have the audience humming along happily.
The dancing is impeccable. High-octane ensemble numbers are matched with balletic duets that show off Leanne Cope’s skills to the max. A prop-led routine starring Fairchild brings the house down. But the main spectacle is Paris. The city’s romance is wonderfully evoked, a feeling heightened by the memory of recent events (the shout of ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ really resonates). It’s a production you’ll fall in love with.
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