Cinema releases of West End shows are a beautiful thing in the world of theatre. While perhaps not offering the same experience as actually being there in the room with the performers, the orchestra and a couple of hundred fellow fanatics, showings like those of An American in Paris that will screen across the UK tomorrow evening are a gift to anyone who can’t afford to simply pop on over to London for the evening.
The show follows Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild), a soldier who decides to stay in Paris rather than return to the States after the war, and Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope), a Parisian who quickly falls for his charms despite having responsibilities elsewhere. Painter Jerry, aspiring performer Henri (Haydn Oakley) and composer Adam (David Seadon-Young) quickly strike up a friendship, but it’s a bond immediately tested by the love for their art and ‘their girl’.
An American in Paris caused a bit of a stir when it debuted at the Dominion Theatre last year, with acclaim heaped on the production for its cast, its direction and its sheer entertainment value.
The choreography throughout is nothing short of sublime, and particular praise must be given to Fairchild for his Fred Astaire-esque talent and charisma. The whole cast are excellent, and you’ll come out feeling for each and every character despite a large ensemble battling for your emotions.
An American in Paris is perhaps best described as several musicals in one, with ballet used to express the journeys of Jerry and Lise as they fall in love, but jazz used elsewhere to signify the feelings of youth and a just-beyond-the-grasp sunrise that hung over Europe after the Second World War. It is the music of freedom – freedom from war, freedom of expression and freedom to love.
The ballet sequences are used in exactly the way they’re needed, too – to express the whirlwind nature of young love in a city known for such flights of fancy against the backdrop of horrors. Lise is tricky in that she’s a character who feels she can’t or won’t express herself for much of the running time, but it is with dance that the character comes alive both inside and outside the story.
The somewhat troubling passivity of Lise is also counteracted in this version by Milo (Zoe Rainey), who provides the funding for the group’s show and attempts to win Jerry’s heart for herself.
There’s so much going on throughout, and such masterful use of sets and costuming, that it’s hard to take it all in at once. Thankfully, then, this production has been saved for all time and we can thus indulge ourselves in repeat viewings so as it savior its finest details. It’s fitting for a show that looks at life as art and art as life, that it should blend humanity and spectacle so expertly.
There’s little more to say about the show that wasn’t said during its opening at the Dominion Theatre, except that the hype was accurate and, rather than taking away from the experience, this recording makes use of its format to bring the magic of An American in Paris to far more people.