(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/21.)
Amagical transformation has taken place. Aside from its sensational climactic ballet, the 1951 Hollywood movie on which this show is basedoffers a ludicrously stagey vision of Paris filled with cheery gendarmes and chirping kids. But Christopher Wheeldon, as director and choreographer, and Bob Crowley, whose sets and costumes have a touch of genius, have created a show that not only offers an eclectic range of Gershwin songs but is also a riot of colour and movement.
From the start, as swastika-adorned banners turn into the tricolour, we are reminded that we are in the newly liberated Paris of 1945; it is still, however, a city of breadlines and vengeful attacks on collaborators. But Craig Lucas’s book does everything to give substance to the movie’s paper-thin story. We still see an ex-GI and would-be artist, Jerry Mulligan, falling in love with Parisian Lise. But there are now two rivals for Lise’s affections, in the shape of an aspiring nightclub singer, Henri, and a war-maimed composer, Adam. The pivotal role of Milo, a rich American woman in love with Jerry, has also been enhanced, so that she now finds herself financing a new ballet in which Lise will star.