Michael Grandage has been exploring a specifically European theatrical repertoire since he took over the artistic directorship of the Donmar Warehouse, breaking with the mainly American preoccupations of his predecessor Sam Mendes. Though Grand Hotel is a musical that was first seen on Broadway in 1989, it doesn't break rank with Grandage's oeuvre, being European in both milieu and mood.

But neither does this production break entirely free of its Broadway origins in terms of the sheer brio and brilliance of its staging, or at the same time erase all memories of the kinetic original New York production of director/choreographer Tommy Tune that came to London's Dominion Theatre for a four month run in 1992. Grandage's staging, galvanisingly choreographed by Adam Cooper in a tapestry of fluid movement, may be on a wholly different, more intimate scale, but it likewise maintains a propulsive and churning momentum to this evocative snapshot of 24-hours in the life of a Berlin hotel in 1928.

Grandage even copies some of Tune's staging devices, such as the cutlery crates that the below-stairs hotel workers rattle to their cry, "Some have/Some have not", or the debt-ridden baron's climb via an balcony stage level to the faded French ballerina's room where he proposes to steal her diamond necklace, but instead steals her heart and surprises even himself by losing his.

That's just one of the intricate web of overlapping stories that Luther Davis' book (drawn from Vicki Baum's 1929 German novel) skilfully weaves in and out of a ravishingly melodic score - originally written by Robert Wright and George Forrest and extensively supplemented by Maury Yeston - that offers a variously haunting, jolting and exhilarating journey through the stark, dark moments it portrays in its characters' lives.

Though the show offers an impressionistic, atmospheric sweep of the plot and incident that affects them, it's amazing how intricately it is characterised, too, in this ideally cast production. Nearly every one of the 17 characters on stage comes to fully formed, minutely detailed life, however fleetingly observed in the brilliantly pinpointed spotlights of Hugh Vanstone's sculptural lighting.

Just notice, for example, the attempted seduction of the hotel concierge (David Lucas) by the hotel manager (Sevan Stephan) - it passes by in just a few seconds, but is one of numerous emotional charges that detonate powerfully throughout the evening.

While the ballerina - on her eighth farewell dancing tour - is losing her illusions in Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's wistful and layered performance, the Baron's attempts to redeem her with his love and save himself is beautifully caught in Julian Ovenden's dashingly sung portrait of desperation.

There's also a piercing portrait of suppressed longing from Gillian Bevan as the ballerina's devoted assistant; and an aching desire for escape from Helen Baker's typist who dreams of Hollywood.

Almost no one gets what they want at this particular Grand Hotel, except for a dying Jewish book-keeper Otto Kringelein who cashes in his savings and comes there looking for life - and gloriously finds it in Daniel Evans's alternately heartbreaking and joyous performance. He provides both the heart and soul of a musical that is often about the lack of one in what is (in my opinion) the year's single best male musical performance.

- Mark Shenton