Dance Takes Centre Stage in two Stunning West End Musicals
'La La Land' may not have quite taken away the Oscar for Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards but there's no doubt that nostalgia for the classic Hollywood musical has been reinvigorated. With joyful burst of tap dancing and sweeping romantic choreography the film reminded audiences that sometimes the best way to feel happy is to sit back and be swept off your feet by the beauty of dance.
If you were one of the many who enjoyed the film and have been inspired by the classic romanticism of the score and beauty of the movement then the West End certainly has two brand new productions that are right up your street. An American in Paris and 42nd Street both begin previews in London's West End in the coming weeks and offer audiences a nostalgic look back at two very different stories accentuated by stunning choreography that is set to delight audiences of all ages, including those looking for some classic escapism and beautiful dancing.
Artistic Associate of the Royal Ballet Christopher Wheeldon stepped into the role of director-choreographer for the Broadway premiere of An American in Paris, based on the unforgettable MGM musical of the same name. After a tryout run at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris back in 2014 the production became a sell-out sensation, journeying across the pond to open at the Palace Theatre on Broadway where it enjoyed a magnificent 623 performance run.
Set to an iconic score of Gershwin hits this musical-ballet hybrid is unlike any show you may have seen before. With a book by Craig Lucas it tells the story of G.I Jerry Mulligan who falls in love with Lise Dassin in post-occupation Paris. With traditional songs reminiscent of a book musical An American in Paris blends Broadway with classical dance as Wheeldon fuses a number of different styles to create a beautiful swirling world of hope, love and romanticism that will quite literally leave you gasping for breath. Bob Crowley's stunning visual designs brings the world of 1940s Paris to life in front of your eyes using the latest scenic technology that paints the stage in rich colours evoking the spirit of optimism.
Seeing the show on Broadway with the stunning British dancer Leanne Cope in the lead role of Lise alongside Robert Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan it was hard not to be swept away by the absorbing story and beautiful movement that reinvents what it means to be a contemporary musical. Nominated for multiple Tony Awards, including the award for Best New Musical, An American in Paris offers an exciting and original look at the musical form, matched by some of Wheeldon's most groundbreaking and challenging work that pushes his entire company to their extreme. From moments en pointe to explosions of tap and jazz the potential within the Gershwin's rich score is effortlessly realised to create a consistently beautiful and highly original new style of production that certainly shouldn't be missed.
From the beauty of Paris to the excitement and bright lights of depression-age New York City, the iconic musical 42nd Street returns to its original London home in what promises to be a feel-good and jaw dropping musical production. With an enormous cast of incredible dancers it tells the showbiz story of Peggy Sawyer who steps in to save producer Julian Marsh's latest show 'Pretty Lady' after 'Prima Donna' Dorothy Brock faces a mid show accident. Leaving her dressing room a chorus girl and coming back a star it is an archetypal backstage rags-to-riches story set to an upbeat score of hits including “We're in the Money”, “Lullaby of Broadway” and of course the title song.
Original book-writer Mark Bramble directs this brand new production that sees an enormous company of talented performers delight in high energy and spectacular dance routines that are sure to leave you in awe of their talents and synchronisation. The musical evokes the 30s charm of films of the era complete with a kickline of beautiful chorus girls dancing in step and creating some of the most memorable productions numbers in the canon.
At a recent rehearsal for the revival it was clear that this highly skilled cast are ready to bring down the houses night after night at London's iconic Theatre Royal Drury Lane. With one of the widest and deepest proscenium stages in the capital, audiences can expect a visual performance like no other, displaying the highs of traditional Broadway theatre with a truly visual and heart-pounding production. Choreographer Randy Skinner brings years of experience to the stage, lighting up the West End with some of the most impressive ensemble routines imaginable.
Whilst both shows may be quite different in their approach they both offer audiences refreshing and highly accomplished productions that place dance and choreography at the forefront. One a long-running Broadway hit and the other a fresh and original take on the classic form, London is all the better for having both open this spring in what is hopefully the start of a renaissance in dance-led musical theatre.