Phil Willmott

Saigon stumbles on Broadway whilst Paris soars in the West End

An American In Paris Often visitors from New York will ask me what theatre I'd recommend they see whilst in the U.K. And, honestly, that's quite a difficult question to answer. So many hit shows have either already been seen in New York or are about transfer there.

This cross-fertilisation began in the late 1980s, a strange decade in the history of New York musicals when they weren't producing anything of note whilst the British were dominating the world with Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals like Cats and Phantom of the Opera and mega hits also produced by Cameron Macintosh including Les Miserables and Miss Saigon, both of which earned their reputations in the West End before taking American Theatre by storm.

Since then the interchange has evened out in quality. We still send our top shows accross the Atlantic and have triumphed at the Tony Awards with productions like the musicals Billy Elliot and Matilda and the play War Horse but the traffic from the other direction has been equally innovative with hits like Jersey Boys, the Disney Musicals, Rent and soon Hamilton representing the best of the U.S in London.

Last week there was a significant exchange of productions. New York got the revival of Miss Saigon originally seen at our Prince Edward Theatre whilst the Broadway production of An American in Paris proved itself all over again with a triumphant opening night in London.

Reading reviews from both sides of the Atlantic it looks like we got the best deal. The New York Times review of Saigon was very sniffy with their critic declaring it, quite rightly in my opinion, to be stiff and bombastic.

Meanwhile the London press, including me, fell in love with the glorious George Gershwin musical and I promise you will too.

I was worried it might not be quite as wonderful as when I saw it in NYC especially since its London home is the cavernous Dominion Theatre which often overwhelms shows and makes them seem soulless and over extended.

Not so An American in Paris. George Gershwin's glorious songs, a new script beefing up the original movie plot with darker themes and the heart stopping dance numbers wrapped up in an exquisite set design had me walking on air all over again. It beguiling captures the spirit of Paris emerging from the oppression of Nazi occupation with a new zest for life and love as epitomised by the affairs of its young characters played out amidst this new optimism.

It is the most romantic, feel good, extraordinarily well executed musical you can see in London and as it's already wowed our cousins across the pond one might even claim it's the best musical in the world right now.

Don't miss it.

An American in Paris