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Sydney review - An American in Paris: captivating from overture to epilogue

By Paul Kiely



An American in Paris

Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin

Book by Craig Lucas

Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon

An Australian Ballet, GWB Entertainment (et al) Production

Theatre Royal

108 King Street, Sydney


Season: 3 May – 12 June 2022. Duration: 2 hours 35 minutes including interval. Bookings: https://americaninparis.com.au

When Americans put their mind to it, they love to do things on a massive scale! And so it is with the big-budget Broadway musical An American in Paris now playing at the Theatre Royal. It is captivating from the overture to the epilogue with sights, sounds, movement and production effects rarely seen.

Although the music was first written by George and Ira Gershwin in the late 1920’s, the stage production is a recent inspiration of the 1951 Best Picture of the same name. With a book by Craig Lucas and adaptation for the stage by Christopher Wheeldon (also Director and Choreographer), the creative input to this spectacle is staggering. And boy, does it show.

For a love story, where else would you want it set but Paris? The year is 1945, the cloak of Nazi suppression has been lifted and there is an air of confidence and excitement for the future.

Two American G.I.’s (Jerry and Adam) and a Frenchman (Henri) form a bond through their interest in art, composing and singing. As fate would have it, their artistic paths find love in the same beautiful ballerina (Lise), with each man blissfully unaware of the identity of each friend’s sweetheart. The unwitting Lise ultimately faces a choice with her career and love. Along the way she finds new strength in herself as commitments from the past collide head on with her instinct. It is a battle between head and heart.

Fortunately, the story is not written as a tragedy. Rather, a victory for understanding and the capacity to trust one’s intuition.

An American in Paris is notable in that the story is told through verse, song and ballet. The amazing dance routines convey the players feelings with much greater depth than words can ever do. That is why the casting for this production is so crucial for its success.

Heading the cast are Robbie Fairchild (Jerry Mulligan) and Leanne Cope (Lise Dassin), both reprising their roles from the Broadway and West End productions. They each fit their characters like gloves; their youth and talent essential for the energy required in the dance sequences.

Robbie, as the aspiring artist, expresses his heart in these unforgettable numbers: “I’ve Got Beginners Luck,” “Liza” and “Fidgety Feet.” Likewise, Leanne floats the stage magically in the Sound Prelude and sings her dream for happiness in “The Man I Love.”

Jonathon Hickey (Adam Hochberg) as the injured veteran composer and Sam Ward (Henri Baurel) as the frustrated son of French industrialists give their all. With the backing of the ensemble, the glitz, feathers, top hats and canes in “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” is outstanding.

Ashleigh Rubenach (Milo Davenport) plays the wealthy American philanthropist perfectly. Her solo rendition of “Shall We Dance?” is delightful. Completing the cast are Anne Wood (Madame Baurel) as the stern Ballet Director and David Whitney (Monsieur Baurel), her husband and affluent businessman.

With eleven other compositions and dances, the audience was mesmerised.

With members of the Australian Ballet in ensemble roles, the huge stage of the Theatre Royal is utilised to capacity.

Another ‘star’ of the show is the staging. Paris is brought to life with imaginative backdrops of famous landmarks, classic buildings and street scenes. Set changes are effortlessly disguised amidst the action on stage.

Of course, a musical is nothing without an orchestra. Under the Direction of Todd Ellison, the unique Gershwin ‘sound’ dominates the theatre. A light symphony with blues and jazz influences.

As an Australian in Sydney, I wholeheartedly commend An American in Paris. It stands as a shining example of pure, all-round entertainment with the world’s best on show.

You will leave feeling much better for it!