Truly deserving the standing ovation it received, the joint production of 'An American in Paris' from GWB Entertainment and The Australian Ballet was an absolute joy to experience.
Bringing a touch of old-world Hollywood glamour to the stunning State Theatre in Arts Centre Melbourne, the phenomenal cast took a packed house on a journey back in time and over the seas to a post-war Paris, filled with exuberance, romance and classic show tunes that set the scene for an enjoyable evening.
From the costuming to the set, every aspect of the production was stunning for the eye to behold. The talented ensemble cast were perfectly choreographed to support in the transition between scenes, assisting the staging to move from cafes to clubs, to glamorous parties and then to the streets of Paris or the banks of the Seine. The clever use of projection to not just set the scene but to bring each location to life helped to immerse us within the story right from the start. Being set in a post-war Paris, the excitement of reacquainting with simply living life was a theme that seemed relatable to a Melbourne crowd still able to strongly recall the lockdowns of the past two years.
Image © Darren Thomas
Centred on themes of romance, love and following one’s dreams, the content of this tale should seem timeless and evergreen, however the only jarring aspect was the romance between our leads, Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope) and Jerry Mulligan (Robbie Fairchild). It's integral to the storyline that we believe these two characters are experiencing true and thrilling romantic love, however when Jerry first makes his move, Lise turns him down clearly and firmly multiple times. Perhaps some nuance was lost in the large theatre, but the character does not seem to be playing coy – she is truly not interested in the brash American who tells her that her name is depressing, she should change it, and who insists English is a superior language to French. In a contemporary context, Jerry Mulligan would be kicked to the curb quicker than a spambot gets blocked from a modern gal’s Instagram account. Unfortunately, it made the whole romance difficult to digest and seems like a curious choice given that the show has been adapted and moulded to fit a new format – surely a slight rewrite to make Mulligan less pretentious could have also been added to the mix?
Leanne Cope and Robbie Fairchild though, were transfixing in their performances as the leads, making the romance between these two believable enough for the story to move forward. These two seasoned performers shone with their graceful skills, dancing and singing their way through the show. Fairchild especially, who was on stage for much of the show, was a real joy to behold. Another notable mention must be given to Sam Ward in the role of Henri Baurel, whose show-stealing performance of 'I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise' delighted in every sense; the singing, the dancing and the costuming of this number was a highlight of the evening.
Image © Darren Thomas
For a step back in time and night of true glitz at the theatre, you certainly can’t go past this gorgeous production – perhaps if you’re like me, set your mind to that 1950s notion of romance, leave your own personal standards at the door, and simply lean into the (slightly silly) love story to truly enjoy this brilliant production. ‘An American In Paris’ is playing Arts Centre Melbourne until 23 April.