MiNDFOOD reviews: ‘An American in Paris’ is a perfect sparkler of a show

By Gill Canning

<em>Credit: Darren Thomas</em>
Credit: Darren Thomas
A marriage of toe-tapping show tunes and balletic choreography produces a magical spectacle on-stage at Sydney’s Theatre Royal.

It was with a little apprehension that I went along to see An American in Paris at Sydney’s Theatre Royal. The adapted stage show of the Oscar-winning 1951 film is being produced in conjunction with the Australian Ballet – in their first-ever foray into musical theatre, and I wondered how a show combining classical ballet with such a popular musical comedy would work.

I need not have worried, however – An American in Paris is a gorgeous synthesis of ballet, jazz, tap and old Hollywood musicals, resulting in a night of breathtaking dance, heart-stirring singing, and good old-fashioned fun.

The story centres around American ex-soldier, Jerry Mulligan who has washed up in Paris after WWII, where he is trying to make a living as a painter. His best friends are Adam Hochberg, a would-be concert pianist and Henri Baurel, a nightclub singer who believes himself in love with a young shop girl, Lise Dassin. When they meet her, both Jerry and Adam also fall for Lise, with the added complication of an American heiress, Milo Davenport, who is also amorously pursuing Jerry.

Credit: Darren Thomas

The cast includes gifted musical theatre performers as well as dancers from the Royal Australian Ballet. ‘Triple threats’ Robbie Fairchild and Leanne Cope played the lead roles of Jerry and Lise on Broadway, followed by the West End, before joining the Australian production. A Principal Dancer of the New York City Ballet and First Artist of the UK’s Royal Ballet respectively, Fairchild and Cope have a beautiful chemistry on stage together … I didn’t hear so much as a pin drop during their moving pas de deux. Unsurprisingly, the show earned a Tony Award for Best Choreography.

The 12 songs and five orchestral numbers in An American in Paris come not only from the film of the same name but include other works written by the legendary composer George Gershwin and his brother, Ira. I Got Rhythm, The Man I Love and They Can’t Take That Away From Me are just three of the hits you’ll likely recognise. The score, which features, jazz, swing, show tunes and some emotive ballads is brilliantly performed by the pit orchestra, while the elegant costumes and Parisian sets are designed by the Tony and Olivier Award-winning Bob Crowley, who also staged the show on Broadway and the West End.

For me, there were too many highlights to mention but suffice to say many include the captivating choreography and some glorious harmonising by the three male leads.

The themes of finding love and creating art are inextricably intertwined throughout the story but towards the end of the show, Adam proclaims, “Love is more important than art”. Well yes, but this art is pretty damn good.

An American in Paris is a perfect sparkler of a show to watch amidst the glittering backdrop of ‘Vivid’ in Sydney. Get there if you can. 

An American in Paris

Theatre Royal Sydney: 29 April – 2 July 

Crown Theatre Perth: 9 July – 27 July

Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide: From 24 January

americaninparis.com.au

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