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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
Clark, as Gigi's loving grandmother Mamita, and Hoty, as her pragmatic ex-courtesan Aunt Alicia, are the standout performers in this newly conceived Gigi Consequently the song's reassignment to them provides one of its more enjoyable musical interludes.
Though book writer Heidi Thomas's has addressed some of Gigi's most glaring politically incorrect elements there's no getting away from the Yuk factor. Is it any more palatable to watch Gigi's Aunt scheme to train that "helpless and appealing little girl" how to become adept at trading sex for wealth. Grandma Mamita may be less crass than the sister who can think of "nothing more romantic than a nice stroll to the bank" but she does consent to the plan.
Thomas has also narrowed the age gap between Gigi and the wealthy playboy Gaston. She's now the age of legal consent — three years older than the 15-year-old in the Colette novelette that inspired the stage and screen adaptations. He's no more than twenty-five so their relationship is now more of a typical romance with some misunderstandings to clear up before the happy ending.
Well-intentioned and understandable as these changes are, they've bleached away much of the color and piquancy of the period and place Colette wrote about. While the recently opened stage adaptation of An American In Paris , another golden oldie film (also directed by Vincente Minelli), was good enough to avoid regretful comparisons to the original cast. This is especially for the current Gigi and Gaston.
Vanessa Hudgens brings plenty of verve and a robust voice to the title role, but except for a too abrupt to be believable scene at the very end, she comes off more like a perky American girl (shades of her multiple High School Musical appearances) than the elfin Parisian charmer of either Leslie Caron or Audrey Hepburn.
While costumer Catherine Zuber does her best to give Corey Cott's Gaston the appearance of an urbane, womanizer, there was no banishing visions of Louis Jourdan. To his credit, Cott does have a rich, velvety tenor voice and he has one truly forget-the-comparisons-scene when he sings the gorgeous title song.
But enough of my quibbling. The show does retain its Paris as the City of Light circa 1900 flavor thanks to Director Eric Schaeffer's seeing to it that the rather flat straight play sequences are interspersed with plenty of lively dance numbers by Joshua Bergasse — not as ravishing as his Jerome Robbins inspired choreography On the Town but prettied up with handsome costumes and enlivened with jazzy can-cans. No complaints about the large ensemble or Steffanie Leigh's performance as Liane d'Exelmans, Gaston's mistress soon to be replaced in his affections (but not so quickly his bed) by GiGi.
Best at evoking the authentic Parisian flavor and bringing depth and warmth to a character is Victoria Clark. And her singing is, as always, spectacular. The "I Remember It Well" duet with Howard McGillin, who's at his best in this number, is this production's high peak. This song and Cott''s "GiGi" also most potently demonstrate the show's kinship to Lerner & Loewe's masterpiece, My Fair Lady.
Like Cathering Zuber, the rest of the design team helps to make everything on the Neil Simon Stage look and sound good. I guess as every wants to play Hamlet, so every scenic designer wants a chance to create a set with a drop-dead stairway reaching to the stars. The busy Derek McLane here gives us a double stair case, backed by the Eiffel Tower. Set pieces for scenes in Mamita amd Alicia's apartments, and Maxim's are rolled out and parachuted down as needed.
' To sum up, this production has plenty of crowd-pleasing bells and whistles. But, unlike An American In Paris which remains true to what the original movie did best and updated its story in a way to enhance that focus, Gigi's update just doesn't work. If "It's a Bore" were an audience sing-along, I'm afraid my own "I'm bored" would apply to much of this production's 2 1/2 hours.