Based on the 1951 Hollywood movie of the same name, An American in Paris is a visually stunning production adapted for the stage. Christopher Wheeldon directs and choreographs with a beautiful attention to detail, with a variety of Gershwin songs this production boasts a gorgeous blend of movement and vivid design.

The cast of An American in Paris – Photo credit for both images: Johan Persson

Despite the adaptation being visually appealing, the story, or lack thereof, is the main issue with this production. There is a confusing love pentagon, a few Americans in Paris, and a contrived story which does not seem to have much to back it up. Jerry Mulligan (played by Max Westwell in the performance I saw) is a creepy ex-soldier turned artist who stalks a poor Parisian ballet dancer Lise (Leanne Cope). Lise also has another two men fighting for her affection, an aspiring singer Henri (Haydn Oakley) whose ambition seems futile and unsupported, and a composer named Adam (played by understudy Jack Wilcox). Not forgetting Milo (Zoë Rainey) – who is pretty fabulous – an American woman also after Jerry and financing a ballet for Lise to star in. There are a bunch of other characters too who add even more muddled and seemingly unimportant elements. The whole plot is quite frankly a confusing and unsupported mess. Each love interest is as ridiculous as the last, with Lise being presented as this Goddess whom everyone can’t help but fall in love with – despite not having much substance at all. Each of the men fawn over her and force their way into her affections in a relatively disturbing way – I’m looking at you Jerry.

Having said that, the design and choreography are the production’s redeeming factors, although I can’t help but wish that this show was solely a dance piece, with movement being its only medium of communication. What could be an enchanting and elaborate ballet demonstrating a fight for love in Paris is an uncomfortable romanticised story which is just an elaborate trope. The acting, dancing, choreography, set, costumes, and design are all great, but it is the story that cannot be overlooked.


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