Music and Lyrics
Director / Choreographer
Set and Costume
Leo Warner & Benjamin Pearcy
Senior Assistant Designer
Theatre du Chatelet
Theatre du Chatelet, Dec 2014
An American in Paris, composed in 1928 by Gershwin, is a symphonic poem of about twenty minutes hailed by the critic Isaac Goldberg as being an “American Afternoon of a Faun”. In 1950, the Hollywood producer Arthur Freed had the idea to make a film based on this piece. As he would later do with Singin' in the Rain, he envisioned a set of existing songs by George and Ira Gershwin on which a story could be created.
As conceived by choreographer and star Gene Kelly, director Vincente Minnelli and book writer Alan J. Lerner, the story of the film focused on an American GI, Jerry, a painter in Montmartre who meets Lise, a young saleswoman. Lise however, is loved by Henri, a singer of middle-of-the-road popular songs. The film culminates in a ballet where the couple reunites. This dance sequence became one of the most famous in the history of the Hollywood musical and the film went on to win six Oscars.
It would be nearly 65 years before a theatrical version of the musical would find its way to the stage. The stunning stage production of An American in Paris will premier at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, before being restaged on broadway at the Palace Theatre. Christopher Wheeldon directs a remarkable cast of singers, actors and dancers as they bring the magic and romance of Paris and the timeless songs of George and Ira Gershwin into perfect harmony. This time, the story focuses on the romantic story of a young American soldier, a beautiful French girl and an indomitable European city, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war.
Video design by 59 Productions works seamlessly with the staging and the scenic elements, to not only create the Parisian streets within which the story is set, but to also bring them to life in their own right. Taking their inspiration from the idea of a sketchbook, the projections transform from simple line drawings to finished artworks in paint and pastel. They work in tandem with an elegantly mobile set and a cast of fluid dancers to create a dynamic and exciting world on stage.
'The result is bold, satisfying and witty, greatly helped by the colourful fluency of [the] virtuosic projected designs which bowl around Paris, creating everything from boats on the Seine to the interior of the Galeries Lafayette.'
'Painted sets and old fashion screens, sophisticated video projections that erect entire districts of Paris in only a few sprays of light... A dance studio turns into a big department store, the banks of the Seine spill over into a jazz club. All the artistic genres slide one after the other: realistic, impressionist, abstract, and in between this parade.'
“Surprising projections on screens and mobile panels create a virtual set, which transport us from one scene to another, from one location to another, like a 3D motion theatre attraction.”
'It starts with a stage-wide Nazi flag magically switching into the French tricolore. The Galeries Lafayette scene alone shows how to conjure up atmosphere with the minimum of props — and the fluid scene changes, against fetching video backdrops, keep the action flowing.'
"This production is clearly a passionate display of love for the City of Light."