Wednesday, 26 April 2017

'An American In Paris' at The Dominion Theatre

One of the big new shows in London at the moment is 'An American In Paris' at the Dominion so we strolled along to see it. I must admit that I've never seen the Gene Kelly film all the way though. I normally give up half way through the film but, now that I'm a ballet fan, then maybe I'll see something different? Peut etre? Well, mebbes...

Despite not having seen the full film before, it looked very much like a faithful reconstruction of the main scenes and, I think, that made it look a bit dated. I've seen lots of old musicals but they don't have to feel dated and of their time but this one did. Perhaps it was the scenes projected onto the back of the stage of the end of the war and American soldiers returning home - or not in the case of our hero? There was a great flash of the French Tricolour fluttering in the breeze and that's almost guaranteed to raise the spirits as it comes at the end of the war.

So, OK, we have a couple of American soldiers who happen to meet and their Parisian chum at the end of the Second World War and Paris starts to get back to normal, but only starts. One wants to be a great artist, another a musician and the other a cabaret star. And they meet a young dancer who wants to be ballerina and who, unbeknownst to the Americans is to become the finance of the Parisian chum and they fall in love with her. It's actually a rather bog-standard old Hollywood-type story and that's possibly the nub of the problem I had with the show.

For all the hype and ticket prices I think I expected something more lavish, more staging and props - and certainly more glamour - to fill up the huge Dominion stage but I didn't feel that we got that other than the cabaret 'dream sequence' in the second half. I thought the singing and dancing was good, it's the story that lets it down really and I didn't particularly care about the characters. It's a bit unsatisfactory and that's quite probably why I've never seen the film all the way through despite it being a Sunday afternoon staple years ago. I always assumed it was the dancing that put me off but I now think it's the story and the rather drab, stereotypical characters.

I hate to be negative about Christopher Wheeldon who directed and choreographed the show (he works with the Royal Ballet, after all) but I wasn't blown away by the show. Maybe my expectations were blown up by the hype about the show? I didn't dislike the show but it's not on my list of things to see again if I can. I liked the two leads of Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope who are both ballet dancers (former New York City Ballet and Royal Ballet respectively) and I thought Robert had a great signing voice. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

Quite a high portion of the audience seemed to be old enough to have seen the film on release in 1951 so I suspect the show will have a good run, bolstered by people wanting to know what the fuss is about. I wish it well.

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