Neil Simon Theatre’s Gigi was remarkable, and not because of Vanessa Hudgens. Director Eric Schaeffer was blessed with an incredible cast and decidedly talented scenic designer Derek McLane, costume designer Cathrine Zuber, lighting designer Natasha Katz, and sound designer Kai Harada. Heidi Thomas’ adapted play Gigi was a pleasing look into 1900 Paris; where all the Parisians are obsessed with love and we are privy to a journey to find out why.
The allure of 20th century Paris was accentuated by moving set pieces, miniature but nevertheless lifelike versions of the Eiffel tower, and adroit use of color and lighting. The stage was an impeccable enhancement to the performance.
This all-star cast was led by Vanessa Hudgens, whose vocal ability was amateur compared to her more seasoned supporting cast. This difference was mitigated by her comfortable portrayal of Gigi, a coming of age girl grappling with the truth of her lot—she must become desirable to secure comfort in her later years but resents this impending reality of her gender.
Corey Cott presented the reluctantly famous Gaston Lachaille. Equally disgruntled as Gigi over his expectations in society, Gaston would rather strive for furthering his mind than his loins. Enrolled into the Parisian obsession with love and love affairs, Cott fell into his role of Gaston with an ease that was reflected on the stage, his voice equally as strong as his compatriots.
Gigi’s caretaker, affectionately known as Mamita by Gaston is masterfully played by Victoria Clark. Exceedingly deserving of her Tony award for The Light in the Piazza, Clark was met by resounding silence when she entered the stage. The beauty of her voice took any other from the room, my breath included.
Where Mamita was the affectionate grandmother that only wished for Gigi to aim for happiness instead of social status, her great aunt Alicia (Dee Hoty) had different aims for her niece. Tony nominated for Footloose, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public and The Will Rogers Follies, Hoty brought an easy lightness to the stage. High in chemistry with Clark, Hoty evoked laughter from the audience and assuaged us into her plan to force Gigi into a high status life, full of fights with lawyers and multiple men to mistress.
Close with Mamita in their distant past, the dapper Honoré Lachaille (Howard McGillin) was the uncle of Gaston. A “will not marry” man, Honoré propels his nephew into the limelight of his considerable fortune-backed fame and freedom to pursue many women. McGillin, perhaps best known for his record-setting run in The Phantom of the Opera, did not disappoint. Like Victoria Clark, McGillin’s voice and performance were exceptionally memorable.
Gaston’s most acclaimed mistress, Liane d’Exelmans was played by Steffanie Leigh. Only interested in the pursuit of Parisian high societal attention, Leigh pulled the eyes of the stage with her throughout her scandalous performance. Her presentation of the airy Liane was precise.
Gigi’s ensemble consisted of Justin Prescott (Charles), Amos Wolff (Sandomir), Ashley Yeater (Marie-Louise), James Patterson (Dufresne), Manny Stark (Bonfils), Max Clayton (Martel) and the Parisians (Preceding and Madeleine Doherty, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Hannah Florence, Brian Ogilvie, Tanairi Sade Vazquez).
The most notable was Justin Prescott as Charles; who portrayed the snooty butler. Prescott made a show of pulling chairs from under unsuspecting lawyers and other antics that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Also noteworthy, was Joshua Bergasse. Gigi’s dance sequences were a mix of traditional and laugh eliciting entertainment. His choice of choreography to announce gossip at Maxim’s was both disjointed and somehow perfect for the occasion.See Gigi, it lives up to its hype.
Review By: Alexandra Lipari
Photos By: Margot Schulman