Gigi: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Champagne, as Gigi reminds us, “is not actually a force of nature, but the result of industrial chemistry!” Neither natural force nor chemistry, alas, is much in evidence at this fizzless toast to Parisian romance in the Belle Époque. Based on a story by Colette, and its 1958 film adaptation by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, Gigi was a flop in its 1973 Broadway debut; Eric Schaeffer’s revival, starring High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens as the titular girl, rescues the show from the dustbin of history and moves it to a recycling bin of the present.
Revised by Heidi Thomas to accommodate modern sensibilities, this Gigi is inoffensive to a fault. The heroine remains a courtesan-in-training, but she’s been given more spunk, and her sugar-daddy suitor, Gaston (the talented Corey Cott), is closer to her age; “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” is now sung by Gigi’s grandmother (Victoria Clark) and great-aunt (Dee Hoty), instead of an aging playboy (Howard McGillin). But these changes are flowery paper on a crumbling wall. Gigi is the story of a girl being groomed to sell herself, and when the musical dances around that—however attractively, thanks to Joshua Bergasse’s swift choreography—it feels evasive.
More often, though, it merely feels generic. Hudgens’s Gigi seems lovely but simple, her gee-whiz appeal hobbled by affected enunciation. (Her consonants are overhoned to a t.) Even that fail-safe old-folks duet, “I Remember It Well,” wilts from lack of personality. Only Cott, especially in his big solo, seems committed to the reality of the story. The rest is mostly yesterday’s bubbly, domestic and served lukewarm.
Neil Simon Theatre (Broadway). Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Music by Frederick Loewe. Directed by Eric Schaeffer. With Vanessa Hudgens, Corey Cott, Victoria Clark. Running time: 2hrs 30mins.
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