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An American in Paris’ Ashley Day Interview: “I’m known as banana man on this show.”

Ashley Day

Ashley Day

“I’m known as banana man on this show,” declares Ashley Day who is currently playing Jerry Mulligan in the West End production of An American in Paris. “I have two bananas every night to keep my stamina up.”

We are talking on the phone and the spirit of theatre enthusiasm is strong in Ashley. He trained at Stonelands School of Ballet and Theatre Arts and with the National Youth Music Theatre. His first ‘proper’ job was as a dancer with the Matthew Bourne Company. “I had just turned 17 and I was eager to be working and doing what I’d trained to do,” he recalls. “That experience as my first job, which included a tour of Japan was such an unbelievable time and one that I’ll never forget. Matthew is such an incredible choreographer and director. He came to see An American In Paris last week and said it how much he enjoyed it. It was a long time ago but I remember those times very fondly.”

An American In Paris

An American In Paris

It would be only polite to discuss An American in Paris. Christopher Wheeldons adaptation of the Oscar-winning film, about an American soldier and young French dancer in Paris sees Day as the leading man alongside Royal Ballet dancer Leanne Cope. The show features the music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin and includes the songs “‘S Wonderful“, “I’ll Build a Stairway To Paradise” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”. It’s a dreamlike musical that pulls off an impressive double, too: fresh enough to stand its ground in the bustle of the risk-taking lot but also conventional enough to catch the imagination of the mainstream-loving millions, with the crucial distinction of not being utter rubbish. It is, in fact, the opposite of rubbish.

I ask Ashley to describe his state of mind before a show. “I’m normally buzzing. I get ready in my dressing room but when I get downstairs it’s a big company with the most incredible number of performers, dressers, technical crew and staff. It’s amazing,” he says. “There are lots of people that I really love here, the excitement backstage is electric. We are a huge family.”

 What is it about this kind of musical that is so appealing audiences to, I ask. “The opportunity to hear these sweeping Gerswhin songs in stunning new arrangements really is very special,” he says. “These songs are absolute classics and everyone loves them; this music sweeps people right out of their seats. The spectacle and artistry is done so brilliantly, there isn’t another show like ours in town.”

An American in Paris is an accessible but immensely rewarding watch, and Day is perfectly cast as leading man, which should in itself tell you that he is capable of really giving it 110%, making the role his own, posing a triple threat, stepping outside his comfort zone and so on.  But, what does he do on his day off? “Absolutely nothing! I usually just lay on the sofa,” he laughs. “I like to walk my dog. An American in Paris is such a gauntlet of a show and so a day off is all about recovery. I watch a ridiculous amount of Box Sets.”

An American in Paris is at the Dominion theatre, London until January 2018.