'Gigi' is like a Paris getaway

Cole Porter's song from "Kiss Me Kate" — "Another Op'nin, Another Show" — came to mind when I attended the opening night of "Gigi" at the Camelot Theatre in Talent. I had seen this stage musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, based on Colette's 1944 novella, when it opened in Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1973. It moved afterward to San Francisco, then to Broadway, where it had a short run, and in 1985 ran for seven months at the Lyric Theatre in London.

Director Livia Genise gives "Gigi" a stylish production, with her daughter Amanda Andersen in the title role, that imparts a French flair and feel, enhanced by the fascinating images projected on a screen of some of the sights in Paris in 1901, such as the Eiffel Tower for the 1889 Exposition, the Bois de Boulogne, The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the coastal resort of Trouville-sur-Mer and the famed Maxim's restaurant. This is fine work by sound/video designer Brian O'Connor.

Lerner in his book "The Street Where I Live" observes that he had written three other musicals with different composers, and then, reversing the normal order, adapted the 1958 movie musical "Gigi" for the stage. It was not a financial success, and Lerner shrugs it off as "commeçi commeça." Directed by Vincente Minelli, the movie had just about blown everyone away, with its sparkling songs and performances by Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold, Leslie Caron, and Louis Jourdan.

Colette's novella details the pains and pleasures of love and how Gigi is coached by her grandmother and an aunt to become a courtesan, except it is a role she is not prepared to play. She is attracted to Gaston Lachailles, a wealthy upper class young man who finally realizes that she has grown up before his eyes. His uncle Honoré counters with "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore," pointing out "How lovely to sit here in the shade with none of the woes of man and maid." Lerner's lyrics are outstanding. On another occasion, when Gigi sings "I Don't Understand the Parisians," Honoré declares that, "Paris is Paris Again." It's neat juxtaposition.

The set design by Donald Zastoupil is pretty with its frame of lattice and intertwining flowers and the neat way the apartments of the grandmother and aunt are swiveled into position. Never is the stage cluttered. Bart Grady, the resident lighting designer, complements the setting. The costume design by Barbara Rains is tasteful and chic whether for the ladies, men, or children.

The fluid choreography of Audrey Flint is again remarkable for its movement control, how the cast, including several youngsters, never stumble, trip, or collide. The music director is Mark Reppert, and the orchestra comprises Karl Iverson (keyboards and atmospheric accordion!) , Joanna Lynden (synthesizer), and Steve Sutfin (percussion).

Bob Jackson Miner extracts some arch comedy as Honoré Lachailles and puts his songs across with finesse, particularly "Thank Heaven for Little Girls." His nephew Gaston (Michael Maisonneuve) has charm and poise and is in good voice, and renders "Gigi" with great sensitivity.

Ellen Holt-Murray as Inez Alvarez (Mamita) is delightful. Not only is she radiant, but she lights up the stage and radiates warmth and gentleness. I loved her song with Honoré, "I Remember it Well." Presila Quinby as Aunt Alicia is another polished performer and here is elegantly cool, no less than when she is haggling over legal concerns (a scene that seemed a shade too long). Amanda Andersen skillfully captures the playfulness and growing maturity of Gigi and has two songs specially written for the stage musical.

How can you leave the Camelot Theatre without one of the lilting tunes a-tingle in your ears? As Livia Genise herself comments, "In the days before VCRs and DVD players (remember those halcyon days?) if you really liked a movie and had to see it again, you went back to the theatre! My parents took my sister and me to see 'Gigi' at the drive-in 10 times."

"Gigi" plays at the Camelot Theatre through April 18. Call 541-535-5250 or visit www.camelotheatre.org

Daily Tidings reviewer Robert H. Miller can be reached at RobertHMiller@ashlandcreek.net.

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