Today marks the end of Gigi‘s run, and I’m not quite sure how to feel about it. On one hand, I completely understand. It’s a fine show that didn’t quite leave an impression (to be fair, it was sandwiched between An American in Paris, which completely dazzled me, and Hamilton, which is completely worth the hype, during a particularly festive birthday weekend). The songs were catchy enough, the choreography was memorable enough, the set design was gorgeous (sadly not enough for a Tony nomination), but the material was dated despite its reworked book. Its biggest asset was Victoia Clark, who much like Meryl Streep at the Oscars, can do no wrong and will get nominated for any and every role. Of course, Vanessa Hudgens was the big box office draw, making her Broadway debut as the title heroine. Despite my misgivings, it was a great starring vehicle for her that let her show off what a great range she has. For full disclosure, I am a HUGE HSM fan, but was pleasantly surprised by her belt and range. It seems her Hollywood Bowl performance as Mimi was the anomaly, and I would love to see Ms. Hudgens continue to do stage work.
My mom and I saw a Saturday evening show, and just happened to pick up our tickets as the matinee performance was letting out. Needless to say, there were lots of excited young girls clamouring to get to the stage door. It’s wonderful to see young people so engaged in the theater, and perhaps following their favorite star will introduce them to a whole new art form.
Then I saw the show. While I admired the feminist slant the show tried to embody, the material is still dated no matter how you try to modernize it. And it made me sad to think that so many young girls were watching a show that preached courtesan values. Sure, Gigi and Gaston end up together only after their love is professed, and Gigi is no longer paid for her services (great values, right?), but so much of the show is about how limited women are in their choices. Gigi has a great line where she laments her limitations as a woman, while Gaston has every opportunity in front of him just for being a man. And yes, of course they both realize they love each other at the end, but whichever way they end up together, Gigi is set for life only because Gaston will provide for her. With love, she doesn’t even have to work for her money, which phrased like that sounds horrible. But either way, Gaston was going to give her the best life imaginable. Hopefully, the young girls in the audience will think that times have changed and can have a career and love.
As happy as I was seeing so many young’uns at the show, I do wish the subject matter preached better values. I have since watched the movie version, and appreciate the stage show so much more now. Given the material, I think they made Gigi much more feminist and strong, but there’s only so much you can do when you choose to set yourself in the 1900s.
My one other quibble with the show was the character, Mamita Alvarez, played by Ms. Clark. When I first heard the casting, not knowing anything about the show, I was a little miffed why a white woman was playing an Alvarez, especially given Ms. Hudgens’ ethnic background and casting. Mamita’s sister, Aunt Alicia, is also portrayed by a white woman, but where does the name Alvarez come from? It’s a shame for the name Alvarez to be thrown around without any real significance, but I’ll gladly take half-hearted attempts at diversity and Vanessa Hudgens as a Broadway leading lady any day.