Review: An American in Paris at the Dominion Theatre

Catch the musical spectacular now at London's Dominion Theatre.

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Hot off the heels of its incredible Broadway run, An American in Paris comes to London to delight UK audiences.

Using the music of the incomparable George and Ira Gershwin, the production paints a stunning picture. Any misgivings you might have about a show like this going into such a gigantic theatre as the Dominion are soon brushed aside.

If anything, the sheer size of the space lends itself to An American in Paris’ genteel storytelling – especially in the dance sequences, where the performers are really given the room to breathe.

At the heart of the story are three men – ex-serviceman turned artist Gerry, cafe owner and composer Adam, and French aristocrat and singer Henri – who form an unlikely friendship in post-war Paris after they bond over each other’s work.

Things get complicated when they all independently meet Parisian dancer Lise, who either consciously or through a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings manages to convince all three men that she’s interested in having a relationship with them.

It’s frothy and fun, and there’s the usual dose of mistaken identities and missed opportunities to drive the story forward and add a sense of real drama. Bolstering this are darker themes, too: the pressures of class society, the folly of ambition and the creeping shadow of racism and fascism in 1940s Europe.

As for the music, even the most unfamiliar with the Gershwins’ back catalogue will recognise a few songs here: I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away From Me and S Wonderful to name a few. All are stunning old Hollywood-esque numbers, but I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise – with its dream sequence and stunning chorus line of high-kicks and jazz hands – is a notable highlight.

In fact it’s the dancing which really makes the show. From the opening tableau to the very final number, An American in Paris is a full-on dance production. Incorporating styles as diverse as ballet, jazz and ballroom, the quality of dance here is breath-taking; with toe-tapping, gorgeously choreographed sequences doing as much to tell the story as any piece of biting dialogue or musical number.

Overall, the show feels truly connected. The book is deftly handled, the choreography is a triumph and the clever use of the Gershwins’ music really lends to the feel of the piece. Song and dance don’t feel like they’ve been stitched into the show just because, but instead flow together so they’re all contributing to the story and drama.

The set and lighting are astounding too, moving far beyond simply being a backdrop to a particular scene and instead helping to really create a sense of the mood, feeling and action.

An American in Paris, which also stars original Broadway leads Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, is running at the Dominion Theatre until September 2017.

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