An American in Paris
Dominion Theatre, London
Remember that giddy feeling you had after seeing La La Land, when your head was full of confetti and your soul full of helium? That’s the effect of this dreamy Broadway hymn to the power of dance, adapted from the 1951 Gershwin film and recently a big hit in New York.
The original MGM movie has a plot as flimsy as a ballerina’s tutu — and that remains the case here. Director Christopher Wheeldon has added streaks of darkness by moving the Parisian setting to the immediate, shell-shocked aftermath of World War II and beefed up the story of shy shopgirl Lise, with whom three men are in love. But even these tweaks can’t prevent the narrative substance of Lise’s central romance with the eponymous Jerry — a former GI in Paris with dreams of becoming a painter — from feeling frustratingly low on the list of concerns.
Yet this is a show that sets out to depict in movement and music the delirious sensation of falling in love and, in that respect, it’s a thing of beauty.
Robert Fairchild, on loan from the New York City Ballet in the Gene Kelly role of Jerry, moves with the sort of gravity-defying grace to make an atheist believe in God. The climactic dance duet between him and Leanne Cope’s Lise is worth the ticket alone.
In fact everything appears to be dancing in Wheeldon’s production. Props, be they large mirrors or a table and chairs, seem to waltz across the stage. Bob Crowley’s designs are a visual pirouette of endlessly transmogrifying Parisian backdrops. Every detail here is attuned to the idea of movement as a language full of rhapsodic possibility.
And then, of course, there’s the score, which collates some of Gershwin’s biggest hits, including the irresistible title track. Go and feel your heart take flight.