Except, instead of butter, it has jaw-dropping production elements. It has stunning costumes by Catherine Zuber, moody, dappled lighting by Natasha Katz and a grand set by Derek McClane that uses a large sweeping double staircase as its anchor. But much like the butter example above, all these beautiful things dress up a musical that can be heard creaking under the weight of its own antiquity. From the vantage point of women’s rights, this story is just silly in its treatment of female characters. It makes them something to be owned, admired, and shown off.
The musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe originally appeared on Broadway in 1973. It ran 110 performances then. I'm not sure who heard Broadway was dying for a revival of it now. This is certainly no Camelot or My Fair Lady, also both by Lerner and Loewe.
This coming of age story tracks Gigi (Vanessa Hudgens), a daughter of privilege as she becomes a woman and falls in love with the young Gaston (Corey Cott). All this is done with the encouragement of her aunt Alicia (Dee Hoty), the carefully measured encouragement of her grandmother (Victoria Clark), and Gaston’s Uncle, Honoré Lachailles (Howard McGillin).
Hudgens (High School Musical) is bright and energetic, filling out the role of both the young, innocent Gigi and the elegant transformed Gigi that emerges, with an energetic performance and a stunning singing voice. But her exuberance occasionally comes off as painting with very broad strokes. There is a level of "over the top" in not only her acting but her pedantic diction. Her over-stressing of every consonant must have been drilled into her, as well as other actors in the cast by either director Eric Schaeffer or dialect coach Ben Furey. Hudgen’s over elocution and that of fellow cast mates distracts and grates. Having written this, I can’t believe I am complaining about over-enunciation, but alas, I am.
Cott is charming as Gaston. He has a lovely singing voice. Victoria Clark charms as Mamita, Gigi’s grandmother. Dee Hoty is marvelously haughty as the gem-obsessed Alicia.
Thankfully, Heidi Thomas’s adaptation has seen fit to reassign the most recognized song from the show, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” to the characters of Mamita and Aunt Alicia. In this day and age it would just be too creepy having the character of Honoré, a grown man, singing it. That said, the number doesn’t really work in the context it is being asked to serve now, reflections from a grandmother and an aunt on their own young ward.
While the choice to restage this musical could be called into question, the treatment that it is given has enough butter... er rather, eye candy to make this a pleasurable evening at the theatre, just don't ask for too much more.