Interview with the cast of An American in Paris, Ashley Day, Jane Asher & Zoe Rainey
Monday, 19 September, 2016
By Dom O'Hanlon
Following on from the official London launch of An American in Paris, we spoke to cast members of the production to hear more about the show and their preparations ahead of rehearsals, which begin in January 2017.
An American in Paris features a score by George and Ira Gershwin with a book by Craig Lucas. After a world premiere at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris the musical opened on Broadway in 2015 where it went on to be nominated for 12 Tony Awards. Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon it features set and costume design by Bob Crowley, lighting design by Natasha Katz and sound design by Jon Weston.
British dancer Leanne Cope will reprise her Drama Desk and Tony-nominated role of Lise Dassin, alongsideRobert Fairchild who originated the role of Jerry Mulligan. The London cast will also feature Jane Asher as Madame Baurel, Haydn Oakley as Henri Baurel, David Seadon-Young as Adam Hochberg and Zoe Rainey as Milo Davenport. Ashley Day will play the alternate Jerry Mulligan, replacing Fairchild in the role from June 2017.
DOH: What initially drew you to the role of Madame Baurel?
JA: For one thing how often do you get asked to be in a huge musical when you can’t really sing or dance? I read it and it’s a lovely part, I love the film, I love the music – a friend of mine who had seen it in New York was there when I got the call, she said you have to do it.
DOH: Had you seen the show in New York?
JA: I haven’t…I think getting to this stage now I won’t. I keep thinking should I nip over and see it, but I think it’ll be nice to do it from the script.
DOH: How do you approach the script of a musical, do you treat it differently to a play?
JA: It’s the same thing I think, the way you approach it. It’s so difficult to talk about these things without sounding pretentious – you’re always looking for the truth in it to a certain extent. Theatre is never true, it’s an approximation, portraying a truth through another artifice.
DOH: What struck you initially about your character?
JA: Trying to understand this woman, she has tried to shelter Lise from the Nazi’s all the way through which is an incredibly brave thing to do. And it’s obviously had an effect on her, making her so over-wary and almost paranoid, she’s become ultra correct as a sort of protection, letting herself slip having had these years of having to pretend. It’s given her this apparent dryness and hardness I suppose which is clearly not what’s going on underneath as with so many people. And I think it’s rather nice to see the warmth come through, she’s actually quite a sad woman who loves her son so much more emotionally than you first see. That’s what I’ve got from reading it, and I’m sure when I start working with Christopher we’ll bring out much more. He’s charming, just so lovely. We sat in a room with intense heat – we just chatted and read a bit of the script and we just clicked.
DOH: Are you a fan of classical ballet?
JA: Not especially if I’m honest, I’ve seen a lot. I enjoy it, but there’s something about classical ballet where you know how it’s going to work, I can’t quite appreciate the way that real ballet fans get excited about the shape of the leg, I maybe don’t get it.
DOH: Do you still get nervous as a performer?
JA: Oh yes, in anything I ever do. It really never gets easier because you know how hard it is. When you’re young I think you feel you can do anything. It doesn’t get any easier, obviously you acquire a reputation so you don’t want to let people down, then you get the obvious nerves of will I forget my lines or will I fall over?!
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An American in Paris opens at the Dominion Theatre from 4 March 2017 to September 30.