Forget the novella by Colette. She must be reeling in her grave. Forget Audrey Hepburn. Hard to do. But necessary. Forget the Oscar winning movie starring Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier and his wonderful rendition of “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” that has been handed over to Gigi’s grandmother and aunt to be politically correct. The insinuations are still there. And while we’re at it you might as well forget this badly cast, beautiful to look at but hard to listen to production at the Neil Simon Theatre that to put it bluntly and to quote one of the songs from the Lerner and Lowe score “It’s a Bore.”
The young Gigi (a miscast shrill Vanessa Hudgens) has been brought up by Grand-mama Mamita – a simple and loving and ravishing Victoria Clark. She is the only reason to see this production. Her acting is superb and grounded. Her voice gorgeous. Late in the second act she gets to sing the lovely “Say a Prayer” and finally we care. Her other numbers are also highlights. The famous duet “I Remember It Well” and “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” sung with a hard working Howard McGillin who portrays Honore – a womanizer who instructs his wealthy and bored nephew Gaston to “have more affairs.” Women are made to be mistresses and are a centime a dozen in this Paris of 1900.
What’s a young girl to do? Mamita wants Gigi to follow in her footsteps. Aunt Alicia (a droll Dee Hoty) – herself a kept woman tries to instill the same values that she believes in. Finding a rich man or men to give her jewels and money and stability with marriage taking a backseat.
Gaston (a too contemporary Corey Scott) is involved with Liane d’Exelmans (Steffanie Leigh) a chanteuse and when she dumps him he attempts suicide. He spends lots of time with Gigi – like a sister and brother until her hem drops and her hair is swept up and he sees her in a different light and falls for her and she for him and we don’t really care as they don’t click in the chemistry department unless you are looking for a Disney type coupling.
The scenic design by Derek McLane and sumptuous costumes (and hats) by Catherine Zuber are superb. Bringing back fond memories of “The Ascot Gavotte” from MY FAIR LADY a far superior score by Lerner and Lowe.
It’s a lopsided affair as rewritten by Heidi Thomas. The men are more important and those young girls coming to see Ms. Hudgens will find her stage time pretty scant. There is a satirical slant to boot with “The Gossips” and “The Lawyers” that is at odds with the naturalness of Ms. Clark.
There are some fine moments of choreography by Joshua Bergasse who did a far better job with ON THE TOWN. Eric Schaefer has directed this uneven production that instead of sparkling simply fizzles. www.gigionbroadway.com
Photos: Joan Marcus
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