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An American in Paris, poster

“An American in Paris” finds its way to London

By Manon Variol

Who does not remember Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron singing and dancing next to the Seine in An American in Paris by Vincente Minnelli ? The best-known songs such as “I got Rhythm” and “S’Wonderful” always put you in a good mood. From 4 March 2017, you will be able to rediscover Paris after the war in this musical directed by the British star dancer and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.

It is not a brand new story. This classic musical was written by the Gershwin brothers in 1928. A former American GI named Jerry Mulligan, moves to Paris to become a painter. He meets Lise Bouvier in Montmartre and instantly falls in love with her lovely face.

After a two-year tour in Paris and Broadway, Christopher Wheeldon comes back to the UK to give the British audience the opportunity to discover this extremely popular musical.

Wheeldon’s An American In Paris has been a huge success abroad: it was the most decorated musical in 2015. Four Tony awards (including best choreography), three Outer Critics Circle awards, three Fred and Adele Aster awards, and many others. Christopher Wheeldon also received an Order of the British Empire decoration for his “services to promoting the reputation of British classical and theatrical dance worldwide”. As Jerry Mulligan says, “Who could ask for anything more ?

When he was asked a to direct this love story, the choreographer hesitated at first. It was a real challenge. “But who can turn down the great music of the Gershwins?” Wheeldon asked. “It has never been done on the stage before and it has been really interesting to adapt it. The première was at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 2014. At that time, they were celebrating the 75th birthday of liberation of Paris - no pressure at all !

Find the right artists has not always been easy. “I was looking for someone to play Lise Bouvier” Christopher Wheeldon explained. “The challenge is to find someone who can sing and act and dance like a ballerina. A friend told me about Leanne Cope. She was dancing in Swan Lake. I met her after a performance but she told me she only sings in the shower. So I tok her to the shower of her dressing room - nothing inappropriate ! - and asked her to sing “The Man I love”.

Leanne Cope plays Lise and Jerry is performed by Robert Fairchild. From June, he will be replaced by Ashley Day. Playing Gene Kelly’s role was his lifelong achievement : “He is the reason why I started dancing when I was three. This is a real challenge and a dream come true ! I hope that I will have the same sparkle in his eyes and the love the audience can’t help feeling for Gene Kelly.

Jerry Mulligan and Lise Bouvier will be in London from 4 March 2017 in this must-see musical !


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