If there was a moment of joy one could be suspended in forever, it surely exists within An American in Paris.
Unlike Vincent Minellei's 1950s set film, this stage adaptation begins as World War 2 ends, and parallels the renewal and personal discoveries of three men through one woman, with the liberation of the 'city of light.’
Choreographed and directed by Royal Ballet School trained Christopher Wheeldon, dance is not only central to this narrative but the production’s very language. Every element has been so thoroughly considered, every moment beautifully realised, every scene change a ballet of transition.
That the creative team chose to open in Paris before New York speaks to an evident desire to capture and ground this work authentically within the city it’s set. Opening at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in December 2014 followed by the Palace Theatre on Broadway in April 2015 and then the Dominion Theatre in London in 2017.
Common to all previous productions and now this extensive Australian tour is Robbie Fairchild and Leanne Cope in the roles they originated.
For lovers of musicals or of ballet, seeing these two outstanding performers is an utter privilege. Individually they are extraordinary but as a pair, they’re chemically astounding; unsurprising given they have performed together in cities around the world now for over 8 years.
Jerry Mulligan is delivered with flair, grace and athleticism by Robbie Fairchild and it’s near impossible to look away from him whenever he is on stage. This perfect casting has afforded him the opportunity to claim and redraw a role made so famous by Gene Kelly.
As demure Lise Dassin, Leanne Cope is stunning. Her awakening from guarded, war shaken girl to confident woman is beautifully realised by her both as a dancer and as an exceptional actor and leaves no dispute about why she would become the focus of affection for the three male leads.
The casting of this show is flawless and across the board there’s simply no dip. As melancholy melody man Adam Hochberg, Jonathan Hickey has superb comic timing and arguably the best voice on stage. Ashleigh Rubenach is perfectly gorgeous, classy, and brassy as minted American Milo Davenport. Sam Ward is fabulously foppy and funny as Henri Burel and really delivers in one of the production’s biggest numbers. As Henri’s devoted parents there’s great musical comedy turns from Anne Wood and David Whitney.
The Australian Ballet as co-producer on this tour is a masterful collaboration both in terms of what these incredible performers bring to this dance driven show but also in profile raising one of our most loved and valuable national assets right as the arts emerge from the last few years of oversight.
To look at, An American in Paris is as beautiful as its performances. Like an homage to the technicolour film upon which it’s based, the mesmerising cinematic projection mapping created by 59 Productions astounds in its capacity to generate mood and place while bringing Bob Crowley’s clever, versatile, and minimal sets to life with precision.
See it a commentary of Paris then, or even in the context of now but either way this is a story of surging forward with optimism after a period of great darkness. An American in Paris is simply the perfect synergy of beautiful music, beautiful staging, and beautiful dancing – joyous tear inducing alchemy and the vaccine all of us should be getting.
The Australian Ballet and GWB Entertainment
An American In Paris
Director Christopher Wheeldon
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne VIC
Dates: 18 March – 24 April 2022