Oh, Gigi! What have they done to you? In an attempt to make this stage version of Lerner & Loewe’s Oscar-winning 1958 film more palatable to 21st-century audiences, adaptor Heidi Thomas has taken a salacious story and stripped it of all its lasciviousness. What’s left is lovely to look at, thanks to Catherine Zuber’s sumptuous costumes and Joshua Bergasse’s lively choreography. But it’s doubtful that even Vanessa Hudgens’s most devout fans will be thanking heaven for this misguided production.
Hudgens, famous for the High School Musical franchise, comes across as far too sophisticated for the 18-year-old innocent Gigi is said to be. She actually appears more worldly wise than her love interest, Corey Cott’s Gaston, a character who has been youthened from mid-30s to 25. Gaston is supposed to be a cynical, wealthy confirmed bachelor who has had a revolving door of mistresses for female companionship, but while Cott, who went straight from college to the Broadway company of Newsies a couple of years ago, is a promising young star with great comic timing, he has the opposite problem of Hudgens: He comes across as too innocent for the sophisticate Gaston is said to be.
In the film, as in the Colette novella that inspired it, Gigi is being groomed for a life as a courtesan. But here her grandmother Mamita (Victoria Clark) sends Gigi to her great aunt Alicia (Dee Hoty) simply for etiquette lessons. Alicia wants her to follow in their courtesan footsteps, but Mamita doesn’t want to push.
Such free rein is good for the girl, but dull dramatically. Thomas, who created the terrific BBC drama Call the Midwife (a show I often have a good cry while watching) wrests little emotion from this scenario, and even though their performances deepen in the second act, Hudgens and Cott generate few sparks in Eric Schaeffer’s humdrum production. The supporting cast is mixed. Broadway veteran Howard McGillin plays Gaston’s uncle-with-a-colorful-past, Honoré Lachaille, with a forced charm, although Steffanie Leigh impresses in the small role Liane d'Exelmans, one of Gaston’s mistresses.
Hoty gets the choicest role as grande dame Alicia, delivering her dry repartee with aplomb. She has a nice foil in Clark, who’s built a career around playing warm maternal types while avoiding sentimentality. They’ve been assigned one of the show’s most famous and controversial songs, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” initially sung by Honoré as a lascivious celebration of girls blossoming into young women. Here it commemorates girlhood, and it fits into that scenario well.
But not much else does. The first Broadway production of Gigi lasted just three months in the 1970s, and despite the success of the film and Lerner & Loewe’s lovely score, it’s not one that needed to revised and revived. In their masterpiece, My Fair Lady, Henry Higgins turns a flower girl into a lady. But it would take even more skill than he possesses to elevate the stage version of Gigi to the status of a great musical.
By Diane Snyder
Visit the Site
Vanessa Hudgens, Victoria Clark, Corey Cott, Dee Hoty, Howard McGillin, Steffanie Leigh
Preview Open/ Preview Close Dates
Preview Opening 3/19/2015
Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019