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By John Barry | Posted 1/12/2005


By Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe

At the Vagabond Theatre through Feb. 6

Gigi’s coming-of-age story stars a young French girl in 1901 Paris being bred for the life of an upwardly mobile courtesan. She captures the heart of a rich, bored playboy, Gaston (Richard Cutting), who spends his time dumping and getting dumped by society women. But the Vagabond’s version of the 1958 musical Gigi gets most of its energy from the aging bystanders of this romance.

Indeed, Gigi’s most effective moments deal with lovers who aren’t young anymore. In one moment, for instance, sixtysomething narrator Honore (Michael Hulett, in an engaging performance) sits down with his old flame Mamita (Celia Rocca, pictured right) at the beach to remember old times. He’s getting all the details of their love affair wrong, which is understandable, since it all happened three or four decades ago, and Mamita keeps correcting him, reminding him stonily that the affair wasn’t all it was cooked up to be. Soon Honore wonders if he’s losing his mind, then suddenly she reaches out and assures him that he’s as charming as ever. Rocca’s subtle command of moments like these gives Gigi its moments of dramatic depth.

As Mamita’s sister Alicia, Amy Jo Shapiro (pictured left, with Jimy Huynh, center) offers an excellent foil. She’s clearly the alpha sister, with the task of molding Gigi into the ideal Paris courtesan. Shapiro and Rocca are the musical’s most effective pair; Alicia’s regal bearing and her sister’s more humanist approach to life clash in a spectacular rendition of “The Contract.”

But Gigi is less satisfying when dealing with the romantic conventions of 1901 Paris. Aside from the obligatory cancan, this version does very little to convince us that their circle is—as Honore puts it—the somewhat sleazy center of Parisian social life. And it’s also a little difficult to accept the budding romantic connection between Gigi and her paramour, Gaston. Melody Easton as Gigi plays a waifish ingénue, and as Gaston Richard Cutting delivers a convincingly offhand portrayal of a jaded lover. Gaston’s smoothly cynical tone has an unquestionable appeal, and Easton’s singing is quite good, but the focus here is less on the developing, awkward romance between the two Parisians and more on the hit songs. Given the enthusiastic capacity crowd, it seems that was precisely what they came for.

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