By Tulis McCall
Let me get this straight. Gigi, based on the novella by Colette, is the story of a young woman coming of age in Paris, 1900. How delish. This young woman is being raised by her grandmother because her mother, well, who knows? She was, ahem, not married. Gigi (Vanessa Hudgens) is fortunate because her grandmother, Mamita (Victoria Clark) is a simple woman who makes her living through calligraphy. And what she wants for her granddaughter is only the best. Gigi’s great Aunt Alicia (Dee Hoty) also wants the best, and for her that means to be the highest quality mistress in all of Paris. The perfect choice of the man is Gaston Lachaille (Corey Cott), the sugar baron, who has been friends with Gigi and Mamita for years – he is Mamita’s former student. Gigi has been growing up in front of his eyes and when she blossoms both older women want him to be the first one on the scene.
Of course it will all work out for the best because this is a Lerner and Loewe musical. In the end (spoiler alert) Gaston realizes that he cannot go through with the proposition – to which Gigi, pure as she is, has agreed because she would rather be miserable with him than happy without him – and he gushes a proposal at just the right moment.
Seriously? You betcha. Welcome to Broadway.
While the plot line is practically odious, this production has done everything it can to sublimate the story. There is a positively Walt Disney quality running throughout the production. Gigi is extremely perky, singing, dancing and twirling around in French schoolgirl clothes until the moment of the womanly unveiling. But at the unveiling the only elements that change are sartorial. Gaston is so clean he nearly glistens, and is more of a good natured chum, with a fabulous set of pipes, than a man whose sexual conquests litter the streets of Paris. The only glimmer of impropriety comes from Aunt Alicia, but Hoty is having such a delicious time swanning around in some seriously gorgeous costumes that it is easy to forget she is talking about auctioning off her grand niece. Even our narrator, Honore Lachaille (Howard McGillin) has morphed from being a 70 year old man with a wandering eye into a sporty gent without one sensual bone in his body.
The costumes are heavenly, the set is an extraordinary play on Tiffany and the Eiffel Tower, and the music is Lerner and Loewe – whose musical My Fair Lady opened two years before the original film. You can hear the echoes of much of that music here. And isn’t it WONDERFUL to hear an orchestra, not to mention an overture.
Everyone tries their best, but Heidi Thompson, who has achieved a great success with Call The Midwife, has adapted the stuffing out of this story. She even takes the iconic Thank Heaven For Little Girls away fro the senior Lachaille and gives it to Clark and Hoty. Another iconic duet I Remember It Well lacks the remembrance of passion that Mamita and Lachaille once shared, and their I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore positively plods. There is little chemistry between these two “old” birds. (Bring back Hermione and Maurice!!) One wonders when Victoria Clark will get another musical of her own. Her voice is rich and crystal clear, and she knows exactly what to do with it – if given the chance. Ditto Ms. Hoty.
This is a Gigi, unfortunately, a sleight of hand production that tries to be all things to all people so that you can bring your daughters to the theatre – because in the end the gal gets her man and keeps her honor. And some people actually subscribe to that myth – like the ones who stood up at the curtain call…. The result, however, is a bland soufflé that is too hard on the outside and too soft at the center.
Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner; music by Frederick Loewe; adapted by Heidi Thomas, based on the novel by Colette; directed by Eric Schaeffer
WITH: Vanessa Hudgens (Gigi), Victoria Clark (Mamita), Corey Cott (Gaston Lachaille), Dee Hoty (Aunt Alicia), Howard McGillin (Honoré Lachaille) and Steffanie Leigh (Liane d’Exelmans).
Choreography by Joshua Bergasse; music supervision by James Moore; sets by Derek McLane; costumes by Catherine Zuber; lighting by Natasha Katz; sound by Kai Harada; wig and hair design by David Brian Brown; makeup design by Jon Carter; voice and dialect coach, Ben Furey; associate director, Joe Barros; associate choreographer, Alison Solomon; orchestrations by August Eriksmoen; music direction by Greg Jarrett; vocal and incidental music arrangements by Matt Aument; dance music arrangements by Sam Davis; music coordinator, John Miller; production manager, Juniper Street Productions; production stage manager, Bonnie Panson; company manager, Katrina Elliott; general manager, Foresight Theatrical/Allan Williams and Lane Marsh. Presented by Jenna Segal, Segal NYC Productions, Ilya Mikhailovic Productions, Eion and Mia Hu, Darren P. Deverna/Jeremiah J. Harris, Merrie L. Davis, Martin Markinson, Lawrence S. Toppall/Riki Kane Larimer/Pat Flicker Addiss, Marsi and Eric Gardiner/Maggie Gold Seelig and Jonathan Seelig. At the Neil Simon Theater, 250 West 52nd Street, Manhattan, 877-250-2929, gigionbroadway.com. Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes.