(c) 2917 David Murley: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the author
Dominion Theatre, London
During previews, I had the fortunate opportunity to see this new spectacle (thanks to a brilliant and super talented colleague who is in the cast) currently about to grace our beloved West End. The show opens officially on the 21st March 2017. So, I will keep this short and sweet, and leave the serious review writing to press night. However, it is imperative for me, as a professional dancer, artist and creative to voice my personal opinion and let you know how truly magical and truly beautiful this show is. Being artistic is certainly not a prerequisite to appreciating the show either.
The theme for the show is movement, flow and elegance. The show does not stop. It is continually moving, never creasing. This constant passage of action was present in the dialogue, the dancing, scene changes and overall motion of the story – sure to keep the spectator engaged. The opening scene commences with Adam Hochberg (David Seadon-Young) at the piano delivering a dialogue about the soon-to-be-unfolding story in his convincing American accent. Suddenly, the scene changes complete with dancers, striking of said piano, projection and a dramatic sweeping display of le drapeau français, or le tricolore, which is then seamlessly whisked away into the fly tower. It is this opening sequence which sets the pacey, yet clear, tone for the evening.
Complimenting Wheeldon’s timeless choreography, a mention must go to the scenic, lighting and projection designers – Bob Crowley, Natasha Katz and 59 Productions LTD – if I left anyone out, apologies! The bar, the cabinets in Les Galleries Lafayette, the scene by La Seine, Stairway to Paradise, etc. I could keep going were captivating. The use of projection was poignant and was effortlessly intertwined into the fabric of la mise en scène. Thank you.
The chemistry between the characters is totally believable. I am not just referring to the classic pairing of former Royal Ballet Leanne Cope and former New York City Ballet Robert Fairchild (Lise Dassin and Jerry Mulligan). The relationships between Mulligan (Fairchild) and Milo Davenport (Zoë Rainey) had depth and exhibited a definite journey – far from one dimensional, a trap Rainey’s character could have easily fallen into. Aside from her interactions with Mulligan (Fairchild), Rainey put a whole spectrum of light and shade into her character as Davenport. Personally, I was rooting for her by the end. Rainey as Davenport was my personal favourite. To add, the relationships between Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild), Adam Hochberg (David Seadon-Young) and Henri Baurel (Haydn Oakley) are a definite compliment to the casting team. However, it is their energies as individuals that breath the real-life rapport between these freshly post-war comrades. They laugh, they sing (obviously), they dance (with Wheeldon as choreographer, you better believe it), they bicker and bare cold hard truths to one another with authentic sensitivities and layers. A real sense of friendship exudes from the trio.
With such a talented cast, it is difficult to pick one individual who stood out as so many gave strong and solid performances. However, I would like to select Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild). Filling such an iconic role played by Hollywood legend, Gene Kelly, Fairchild will no doubt be compared to Gene Kelly. However, I concur. Do let me finish, please. Fairchild is a tour de force when he dances, and he can sing, act and has comic timing. Indeed, this is all crying out Gene Kelly. However, Fairchild is his own entity in is his own right. Fairchild moves in his own way, and seeing Fairchild live compared to the celluloid I would stare at in awe when watching Gene Kelly – yes, make the complimentary comparison, but Fairchild makes Mulligan his own. This is something you will need to deduce for yourself. Not sure if this is because Fairchild is American, but he certainly embodies his own bit of Hollywood as the charming, eloquently roguish and that side of the Atlantic dashing when he is on that stage as Jerry Mulligan. To add, Fairchild can rock a large floppy pink hat with American G.I. cool.
What was refreshing to see, was the dancing – everything from the juicy and oozy scene changes, Stairway to Paradise and the Act II ballet. As enthralling and hands-in-the-air as conventional musical theatre (MT) T and A can be (if you have seen Chorus Line, then you will know what I am referring to here, if not, then ask someone), the style, class and elegance of Wheeldon’s choreography was the glue sealing the American and French styles of this tale.
Slick, technical and watchable, the dancers are the brick work of this production – probably some of the most beautiful brickwork I have seen in a MT production in a long time too.
An American in Paris opens officially on the 21st March 2017 at the Dominion Theatre in London. The closest tube is Tottenham Court Road. The show is true delight, the champagne of Theatreland. Book your tickets soon, and sit back and enjoy the spectacle, design and wonderment, and maybe have some champagne too!