The story of An American in Paris started way back when in 1928 when George Gershwin took a visit to Paris and wrote a jazz-influence symphonic poem about his experience. The symphony premiered at Carnegie Hall as part of a New York Philharmonic concert and it became one of Gershwin’s most iconic compositions. Gershwin returned to An American in Paris in 1951 with the classic American musical movie starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. Created in the hayday of MGM movie musicals, the film was the brain child of George and Ira Gershwin’s composing skills and newcomer to the film scriptwriting scene, Mr Alan Jay Lerner (who we all know to be a very high profile composer of works like Gigi and My Fair Lady). The Gerswins (and the uncredited Saul Chaplin) collaborated on a new, full score for the movie based upon George’s original symphony which includes classics like “S’Wonderful” and “I Got Rhythm”. Not only did Gene Kelly star but he also choreographed the film including the iconic 17-minute ballet sequence at the climax of the film which is set to the original piece of music by Gershwin.
An American in Paris follows World War II veteran Jerry Mulligan who decides to stay in Paris and become a painter. He then befriends people in his building – Adam who is a pianist and Henri who is a singer – and they begin to socialise. After some complications on a date, Jerry meets Lise Bouvier. Lise isn’t immediately attracted to Jerry but as time goes on, she begins to fall for him and a love story starts to blossom. It’s a tale of love, beauty and of course; stunning dance. The film was one of the most commercially successful films of the time and it took home a slew of awards including the Oscar and the Golden Globe for Best Picture.
Over 50 years later, the piece received its first stage production in 2008 at the Alley Theatre in Houston. The show included many of the film’s original songs and was directed by Gregory Boyd but it failed to pick up enough buzz to live a further life in a bigger theatre. Six years later, a new musical version of An American In Paris premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in November 2014. Starring New York City Ballet principal dancer Robert Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan and British Royal Ballet star Leanne Cope as Lise Dassin (re-surnamed for this production), the show ran for a limited two month run before landing on Broadway in March 2015 at the Palace Theatre. Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon with a new book by Craig Lucas and design by Bob Crowley, the show opened to overwhelmingly positive reviews. The show was one of the most nominated shows of the year with 12 Tony nominations, 12 Drama Desk nominations and even a Grammy Award nomination for Best Musical Theater Album. The show won four of its Tony nods including Best Choreography and even won the coveted Best New Musical prize at the Outer Critics Circle Awards.
The show is now going to find itself a new life in its latest production at London’s Dominion Theatre next March. With previews starting on March 4th and an official opening of March 21st, the cast with be led by Paris and Broadway’s stars Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope. An American in Paris tickets are on sale now and I’d be quick about snapping them up if I were you, because this is sure to be a big one.