Venue: Theatre Royal Sydney (Sydney NSW), 29 Apr – 12 Jun, 2022
Book: Craig Lucas (inspired by the Motion Picture)
Music & Lyrics: George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin
Director: Christopher Wheeldon
Cast: Leanne Cope, Robbie Fairchild, Jonathan Hickey, Ashleigh Rubenach, Sam Ward, David Whitney, Anne Wood
Images by Darren Thomas
Jerry is a World War II veteran, experiencing art and love in a foreign land, a few short years after arms have been laid down. More than ever before, freedom seems a phenomenon not to be taken for granted. The stage musical An American in Paris is based on the legendary 1951 Vincente Minnelli film of the same name, known for its visual splendour and inventive use of music by the Gershwin brothers. This adaptation, although replete with nostalgia, is tailored for a more contemporary sensibility. Beautifully positioned between past and present, it connects us with the genius of a bygone era, delivering divine inspiration to a generation at risk of losing artistic treasures that had been gifted decades before.
Gene Kelly’s original choreography is transposed to perfection by Christopher Wheeldon, whose re-creation of mid-century modern ballet proves to be nothing short of sublime. Spellbindingly performed by a cast that is at once whimsical yet disciplined, the audience is impressed and dumbfounded, capable only to gawk and lose ourselves in the theatrical magic being presented. Robbie Fairchild and Leanne Cope are the leads, individually swoonsome but as a pair, their extraordinary synchronicity is flabbergasting, in a series of breathtaking pas de deux that are simply unforgettable.
Gershwin’s iconic score is given wonderful revitalisation by Rob Fisher, who provides for the production a taut rendition of familiar evergreen melodies. Musical direction by Vanessa Scammell is dynamic and spirited, interpreted by a fastidious orchestra that moves us to spaces rarefied and hopelessly romantic. Visual design aspects are somewhat restrained, and not particularly lavish, but sonic dimensions of An American in Paris induce a sense of grandeur that insists on our luxuriation.
The danger of nostalgia is its inherent denial of negative aspects, in our wilful idealisation of the past. Longing for a history that never really existed, undermines the progress that time has achieved. When we say that things used to be better, we imply a rejection of improvements that have been made, and that continue to be made. The fact is, so much of what he have today, is better than how they used to be. In stolen moments however, lingering briefly in fantasies of a different world, is a respite all humans require.