Guilty Pleasure Thursday - Gigi - It's coming to Broadway...again
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe created intoxicating scores for the musical classics Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, and Camelot. The songs from these musicals will sweep you off your feet with their theatricality, emotional sweep, and revealing character pieces. Lerner and Loewe also produced the score for the "Best Picture" winner of 1958, Gigi, also picking up an Oscar for the the title song. Vincente Minnelli directed the elegant musical (based on the story by Colette) about a young french girl groomed for courtesanship by her aunt and grandmother in the hopes of securing Gigi's future by pimping her out to the rich playboy Gaston. Apparently, being a "kept woman" is a family trade, passed down through the generations.
Despite its unseemly and hard to digest premise, Gigi is a lovely film, full of gorgeous locales, colorful characters, and evocative music. For sure, the score features the slightly creepy "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," which today sounds like the plea of a pedophile, but other songs are simply lush and wonderful. "The Parisians" is a humorous character number for Gigi, who doesn't understand the citizens of Paris and their preoccupation with making love. "I Remember It Well" is a subtly humorous duet for two elderly friends who recall (vaguely) the love affair of their youth. "Say a Prayer for Me Tonight" (originally written for My Fair Lady) is a heartbreaking ballad for Gigi who is being forced to grow up and be someone she doesn't want to be. "The Night They Invented Champagne" is a robust burst of joy, on a par with "The Rain in Spain." The title song is a monologue tour-de-force for Gaston as he juggles the complicated feelings he has for the girl, unsure of whether she is still a child or morphing into a young woman.
Gigi was brought to the musical theatre stage in 1973 where is basically bombed. Lerner and Loewe won the TONY Award for "Best Score," but somehow Gigi didn't translate to the stage. There is something both refined and personal about the film that may make it hard for those who have watched it again and again to accept in a bigger, less intimate form. The film's art design and costumes are so distinct and part of the film's gravitas that it is hard to imagine audiences leaving memories of them behind for what will be seen on the stage. And then there are the general themes of the story, which, by today's standards, may be far less palatable to audiences. It will be interesting to see how the new Broadway revival making its way to the Great White Way will overcome these hurdles and to see if the material can be made fresh and acceptable to new audiences. I have always enjoyed the film of Gigi and would love to see it be successful on the stage. It is a guilty pleasure for me that has so much potential magic, but a tricky property that will have to overcome its demons to succeed.