An American in Paris (State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne) - 135 minutes plus a 20 minute interval
Once you learn that Robbie Fairchild was a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet you can understand why he glides so effortlessly across the stage in a stellar display as the centrepiece of An American in Paris.
He’s a wonderful talent and he pairs that magnificently with acting and singing.
Mind you, his leading lady, Leanne Cope, who was First Artist at the Royal Ballet and who originated the role she plays here on Broadway and the West End, is glorious too.
Photos by Darren Thomas
There is so much to like and admire about this lively and colourful love story, set at the end of World War II.
US Army Lieutenant Jerry Mulligan (Fairchild) is attracted to a woman – Lise Dassin (Cope) – he sees on the streets of Paris just after the liberation.
He deliberately misses his train and decides to stay on in the French capital and pursue his passion for painting.
Mulligan chances upon a café, where he is greeted by a fellow veteran, pianist and composer Adam Hochberg (Jonathan Hickey), whose injuries have left him with a permanent limp.
Hochberg soon introduces Mulligan to Henri Baurel (Sam Ward), the son of wealthy French industrialists, when the latter enters the diner to rehearse the nightclub act he is putting together with Hochberg.
The Baurels (played by Anne Wood and David Whitney) – especially Henri’s mother – want him to follow in their footsteps, but Henri has dreams of making it big on Broadway.
Circumstances see Mulligan unexpectedly bump into Dassin again, this time at ballet auditions for a prestigious company.
That is also where American philanthropist Milo Davenport (Ashleigh Rubenach) takes more than a passing interest in Mulligan.
Mulligan subsequently makes a romantic play for Dassin, but she is resistant.
Little does Mulligan know that she has a back story concerning the Holocaust and the Baurel family.
Henri is her long-term boyfriend, while Hochberg mistakes politeness and charm for something more and also plays his hand.
Musically, An American in Paris is a triumph for George and Ira Gershwin. Numbers like I Got Rhythm, ‘S Wonderful and They Can’t Take That Away From Me continue to resonate.
The entire cast is poised and polished. They are equally at home with ballet, jazz and tap, all of which feature – with an onus on the former.
Jonathan Hickey is gifted the best lines in the piece and delivers them wonderfully. His penchant for comedy is unmistakable.
Sam Ward readily steps into the role of an uptight Frenchman carrying a family secret.
Ashleigh Rubenach is a revelation as the gregarious and single-minded patron.
Anne Wood makes an art form of standoffish and is juxtaposed perfectly with her on stage husband David Whitney.
They are supported by a talented ensemble and Orchestra Victoria.
The direction and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon are exemplary. He makes the complex looks simple and free-flowing.
The staging is breathtaking. Often elaborate props channelling all things Parisian are wheeled in and out seamlessly.
The ever-changing visual imagery – from watercolours to sketches filled with spots of colour – is equally creative and evocative.
An American in Paris is a show that is romantic, comedic and dramatic.
It delights and amuses and it deserves the standing ovation it received on opening night. It is playing at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until 23rd April, 2022.