This week, a new production of Miss Saigon, which debuted on the West End in 2014, opened on Broadway, while An American in Paris, which played on Broadway in 2015, has opened at London’s Dominion Theatre. Christopher Wheeldon’s staging originated at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 2014 before moving to Broadway, and is now playing on the West End with its original stars Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope reprising their Tony-nominated roles.
Read what London critics had to say about An American in Paris:
In the London Times, Ann Treneman writes: “It’s got starlight, it’s got sweet dreams and, yes, it’s got rhythm too. You almost feel you couldn’t ask for anything more but this Gershwin musical also has that indefinable something called grace, a lightness that would out-soufflé even Julia Child, and a joie de vivre that lifts it, and us, all night long.” She adds that the show “was inspired by the 1951 film with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron but has its own embellishments and balletic choreography that at times takes your breath away.”
The Guardian’s critic Michael Billington said of director/choreographer Wheeldon and designer Bob Crowley: “[their] sets and costumes have a touch of genius, [and] have created a show that not only offers an eclectic range of Gershwin songs but is also a riot of color and movement.” He concludes that the musical is an improvement on the original film: “With Rob Fisher supervising a score that includes a wealth of Gershwin classics, you feel as if the tarnished silver of the Vincente Minnelli movie has been turned into theatrical gold.”
For Whatsonstage, Sarah Crompton, the former dance critic for the Daily Telegraph, says: “An American in Paris is unlike any other musical on the London stage: sumptuously beautiful and heartfelt, it has a romantic pizzazz all of its own.” And of Wheeldon’s choreography, she writes: “His steps and his conception have deep refinement, but allow the emotion to emerge naturally from the action... For good measure, he throws in one big tap number, but it is the bold use of balletic idiom, mixed with a more casual musical style, that makes the choreography so striking.”
And in my own review for The Stage I wrote: “This is that rare show where the designs also dance. Paris is magically conjured in line drawings that come to life before our eyes, as do startling transformations. It is sheer musical theatre magic.”
Scroll through photos of the West End production:
An American in Paris Comes to London
Also this week, the Royal Court premiered Simon McBurney’s staging of The Kid Stays in the Picture, of which there has been talk of a possible Broadway transfer. The show is McBurney’s stage adaptation of Robert Evans’ memoir, a former Hollywood studio head and producer. McBurney returns to the Royal Court where he previously directed Ionesco’s The Chairs, a production that subsequently transferred to Broadway.
Read what critics had to say:
Paul Taylor of The Independent calls the show a “brilliant piece of experimental, multimedia theatre.” He writes: “this deeply funny and moving show presents its protagonist as contradictory figure.”
In the Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish says: “What this distillation of Evans’ story does is give you a heady taste of its madness and magic: a freefall through a life which, fusing theatre and film, honors its rip-up-the-rule-book subject. Artistic director of Complicite, McBurney refracts the key chapters through the prism of noir—we move from one vignette to the next as if on a breathless quest to solve the Rosebud-like riddle of Evans’ personality.”
In The Guardian, Michael Billington writes: “The show is a tour de force but I wonder if it is strictly necessary. It also alarms me to see the Royal Court, traditionally the home of the dramatist, turning itself, however dazzlingly, into a director’s theatre.”
For the Arts Desk, Aleks Sierz makes a similar point: “How I wish the Royal Court had stuck to fiction. After all, it is supposed to be a playwright’s theatre.” He also says: “While we can all appreciate that a producer’s life is all about making phone calls, must a play about it be crammed with them? Ring, ring, ring. It’s enough to drive you mad. Basically, this play is a mess. And a long mess at that. It is clichéd in its choice of music, banal as a Californian self-help manual in its choice of quotes from Evans’ wisdom, and muddled in its vision. On the night I saw it, there was a technical breakdown in Act One, a perfect judgement on the hubristic nature of this ill-conceived enterprise.”
And in my review for The Stage I wrote, “Frankly, Singin’ in the Rain has more insight into the behind-the-scenes machinations of making movies—and contains far better choreography. As this production progresses down its weary, well-worn path, the only intrigue is in watching the cast trying to avoid watching the auto cue too closely; it is sited at the front of the circle and we can see it all too conspicuously, as it is reflected in the glass panels of Anna Fleischle’s antiseptic box set.”
Oliviers, production, and casting news
The red carpet arrivals before this year’s Olivier Awards will be broadcast exclusively on the Awards Facebook page April 9. The live stream will be hosted by BBC television broadcaster Anita Rani, Collabro singer Jamie Lambert and NY-1’s Frank DiLella.
Full casting has been announced for the London run of a new musical version of The Wind in the Willows, featuring a book by Julian Fellowes, and score by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The show will begin June 17 at the London Palladium from June 17, with a cast that includes Denise Welch, Gary Wilmot, Craig Mather, Simon Lipkin, Rufus Hound, and Neil McDermott.
A cast change at the London production of Dreamgirls—now running at the Savoy—has seen Broadway’s Asmeret Ghebremichael step into the role of Lorrell Robinson. She replaces Ibinabo Jack who has had to withdraw from the production due to health reasons.
The hit stage version of Khaled Hosseini's best-selling novel The Kite Runner is set to return to the West End. The play previously ran at the Wyndham Theatre December 11, 2016–March 11, 2017, and will return for a summer run, this time at the Playhouse Theatre from June 8.
Ian McKellen will bring a new solo show, titled Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You, to North London’s intimate Park Theatre as a charity fund-raiser for the venue. Performances will run July 3-9 only.
For further news…
Stay tuned to Playbill.com and follow me on Twitter @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.