I was very lucky to be invited to the press launch of ‘An American in Paris’, held at Picturehouse Central on Shaftesbury Avenue. The event was to celebrate the Tony-award winning show transferring to London, where it will open in previews from March 4th 2017 at the Dominion Theatre, with a premier on the 21st. Having had a sell-out premiere in Paris and successful run on Broadway, there was certainly plenty of buzz about this musical.
Jerry Mulligan is an Amercian GI striving to make it as a painter in a city suddenly bursting witb hope and possibility. Following a chance encounter with a beautiful young dancer names Lise, the streets of Paris suddenly become the backdrop to a sensuous, modern romance of art, friendship, and love in the aftermath of the war.
Despite being based on the 1951 film of the same name starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon says it is not a direct copy, but has its own unique elements, such as using the backdrop of the end of the war in a much more prominent way as we have more perspective on that in the 2010s than we did when it was still very raw in the 1950s. In conversation with Darcey Bussell at the event, he noted that because dance plays an even bigger part in the show than the film that the show finds its own new language through that.
This will be Wheeldon’s West End debut as a director/choreographer, despite already having one Tony and two Olivier Awards to his name. Recently honoured an OBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours for dance, Wheeldon is artistic associate of the Royal Ballet and has created many new ballets including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Winter’s Tale. Despite having never directed before this project, Wheeldon brings his dance expertise to this show, which is what I think makes it so different from many of the shows in London today. An American in Paris incorporates many styles of dance including jazz, Broadway-style kick-lines, tap, and most famously, classical ballet. Finding the two leads of Jerry and Lise was a challenge, said Wheeldon, as not only did they have to sing and act, but also dance classical ballet as well as professional ballet dancers – Lise has to dance en pointe. However, Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope were cast in the Broadway production to astounding reviews, critical acclaim, and Tony Awards, and will be transferring to London to join the West End cast.
Not since “West Side Story” has dance been used to such an overwhelming effect on stage”
– The Wall Street Journal
Joining Fairchild and Cope will be Haydn Oakley as Henri Baurel, Zoë Rainey as Milo Davenport, David Seadon-Young as Adam Hochbery, and Jane Asher as Madame Baurel. Ashley Day will be the alternate Jerry Mulligan before taking over the role from 19 June 2017.
I was lucky enough to catch a few minutes with Haydn, David, and Zoe, and you can watch my interview below (thank you to Em from OhMyMusicals for filming!) [I also apologise for the awful quality – looks like I need to get some new equipment!]
The music and lyrics of the show are by the George and Ira Gershwin, so you will definitely hear some familiar numbers to tap your toes to, such as “I Got Rhythm”, and “S’Wonderful”. Add this with Wheeldon’s phenomenal choreography and the beautiful set and costumes by Bob Crowley and the show will ooze Parisian glamour, romance, and style.
Make sure to check out the trailer below, and to follow the UK Twitter page (@AmericanParisUK) for more information and the latest updates.
I’m so excited for this show! Are you? Let me know in the comments below!