AN AMERICAN IN PARIS Pirouettes Into The West End
Following wildly successful runs in Paris and New York, four-time Tony Award-winning An American in Paris is currently previewing at London's Dominion Theatre, set to officially open in just over a week's time. It retains original cast members Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, starring as Jerry and Lise, with the rest of the cast including Zoë Rainey, Jane Asher, Haydn Oakley and David Seadon-Young.
Inspired by the film of the same name, the show follows American GI Jerry Mulligan as he tries to make a life for himself in Paris following the end of the Second World War. The aspiring artist keeps encountering ballerina Lise Dassin quite by chance, but their romance has more than a few obstacles in its way.
Producers Stuart Oken and Van Kaplan are thrilled that the show has made it to London - it's been a hugely important project for them over the past seven years, and with British director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon at the helm it now feels like a bit of a homecoming.
Oken admits that Wheeldon was perhaps a bit of an unusual choice, given his lack of experience in directing and choreographing an entire musical as opposed to a ballet, but they wanted a showman, someone with "the skills of a classical choreographer and a Broadway pizzazz".
Oken elaborates: "If we ran away from dance and ballet in trying to make this a contemporary, newly thought piece, we would also fail because everyone would be talking about 'Oh, they just didn't have the guts to attack the dance'." In Wheeldon, they found someone who could deliver their vision.
Rather than simply recreating the film, the team reconceived it by making the characters younger and starting the story just as the Second World War ended - this way they could explore "what it's like to be a young person affected by big changes in your life brought on by war and trauma," explains Oken. Fuelled by the assertion that coming from somewhere dark would enhance the ultimate joy of the piece, they have produced a "very modern, yet very classic, story of young people coming to a hopeful, authentic resolution out of a dark period of time."
"It has all the elements of a great musical comedy piece," observes Van Kaplan. What they wanted to do was hark back to the Golden Age of Broadway, where every element (book, music, lyrics and dance) was intrinsically linked to tell a story, but at the same time create a piece that doesn't feel old-fashioned.
The show also, they believe, speaks to all kinds of audiences. There's the wonderful Gershwin music for those who enjoy more classical art forms, as well as plenty for those who have fallen in love with dance more recently through Strictly Come Dancing and La La Land. It even works for non-English speakers, states Oken, as "the language of dance is universal".
To that end, the producers have confirmed there are hopes for the show to tour around the world, but for now it calls the Dominion Theatre its home - a "big and beautiful theatre," says Oken. "There's not a bad seat in the house."
Who could ask for anything more?
Watch a video from the launch event below!
Picture credit: Angela Sterling