Robert Fairchild & Leanne Cope
Robert Fairchild & Leanne Cope / photo by Tristram Kenton

The engagement may have ended in London but it is impossible to forget the music and breathtaking dance routines that graced the stage at the Dominion Theatre.

An American is Paris is a show that is truly unique. The score and story transport the audience back to a simpler time and to what theatre used to be. The production itself is breathtaking without needing bright lights, until of course mid-way through ‘Stairway to Happiness’, and it’s beautifully simple.

The narrative is focused around charming ex-US Soldier ‘Jerry Mulligan’ (Ashley Day) and aspiring French dancer ‘Lise Dassin’ (initially Leanne Cope, but played at this performance by understudy Kristen McGarrity) as they find love in Paris. The narrative is arguably typical, with three men fawning over the same girl (including her fiance ‘Henri’, played by Haydn Oakley) with our hero ultimately winning her hand. However the way in which this was done in An American in Paris made it stand out. Dancing played a large part in the narrative which was powerful. In the opening scene, for example, dance was used to show the ending of the war with soldiers returning home to the loving arms of their families as well as people finding out people they loved had lost their lives.

The Gershwin score is enough to get anyone tapping their feet, and in my eyes nothing can beat it! Despite all the modern musicals with a new, innovative style to their music that we all sing along to, it is hard not to fall in love with such classic numbers like ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ and ‘S’ Wonderful’ by both young and old.

There were many moments that stood out in the show and indeed many positives I could discuss to great length but instead I am going to focus on a couple of my favourites! The first of these moments is during the song ‘Stairway to Happiness.’ During this number ‘Henri’ is stood in a club nervously performing and looking uncomfortable, but after some encouragement from pianist/composer and unlikely friend ‘Adam’ (David Seadon-Young), the stage transforms into Radio City Music Hall where both men are in their element amongst the glitz and glamour with bright lights and dancers. It was a special moment where ‘Henri’ truly believed in his dream to be a on the stage despite earlier nerves. The second moment happened during ‘Lise’’s big dance routine where she was given the chance to dance on stage. At the start of the routine it was positioned so that the audience were watching from backstage, so we saw the backs of the dancers with ‘Adam’ conducting from ‘in front’. It was just a really cool moment in terms of staging. As the routine progressed, the dancers took over the whole stage and ‘Lise’’s partner changed to become ‘Jerry’ (whom she had fallen in love with) as that’s who she was imagining during that intimate number. I am a sucker for cute romantic things like that so it’s understandable that is in my top moments.

The one thing I would say that would stop me from giving the show five stars would be the use of the screen at the end of Act One during the masked ball. Instead of the screen being used to create a realistic background like in the rest of the show, bright colours were projected on it and it made the scene overwhelming and difficult to focus on the actors. Due to this, the end of the act to me was lost in the unneeded colour and it felt very ruined. Luckily this was rectified during the second act which was energetic, tastefully colourful and beautiful in terms of storytelling.

As I close, I want to give special recognition to Kristen McGarrity who was the understudy who took on the role of ‘Lise’ after Leanne Cope was taken ill. Kristen did an amazing job in the role and her singing and dancing was exceptional! The show has closed but I would like to congratulate the whole cast, including Kristen, for putting on such a unique and special show.