Bottom line: Vanessa Hudgens doesn’t embarrass herself. She’s perfectly fine as a beautiful girl coming of age in the glamorous and morally ambiguous wold of belle epoque Paris (though honestly at Broadway prices, “perfectly fine” isn’t quite enough). The best thing about this production, however, is Victoria Clark as her youngish grandmother Mamita.
When acting the role of Mamita, Clark gives the evening’s most shaded performance – we see her stern concern for Gigi, but always colored with a warm feeling of deep love. But it is when Clarke sings that Gigi really takes flight, her solo “Say A Prayer” being the one moment in the show with undeniable emotional pull and musical theater magic.
The show does have other virtues: Dee Hoty delights as Gigi’s courtesan aunt, who tries to persuade the girl to follow in her footsteps. Joshua Bergasse’s elegant and vivacious choreography continues his winning streak, giving the show a shot of exuberance that it doesn’t otherwise possess. I’ll even give an odd moment of anachronistic Fosse-esque jazziness a pass since the rest of Bergasse’s work is just so darn good. Catherine Zuber’s costumes are deliciously sensual, reminding us in detail just what was so belle about that epoque.
As to the score, it’s by those “golden age of musicals” masters Lerner & Loewe. It definitely isn’t their best work, but it nonetheless has all the virtues of classic Broadway, and there’s no denying the pleasure of hearing it sung by the likes of Clark, Hoty and Howard McGillin.
In the end, though, this is more of a diverting musical than one that’s deeply satisfying in any way. This bon bon really left me wanting something more substantial.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.