Topol is joined on the stage by fellow West End legend Millicent Martin, as Mamita, the grandmother of Lisa O\'Hare’s titular Gigi a teenage girl being groomed by her grandmother and aunt to become a courtesan. The cast also features German stage star Thomas Borchert as Honore’s nephew Gaston Lachaille, the bachelor and bon vivant who becomes captivated by Gigi as she matures from wild adolescent to poised young lady, and Linda Thorson as Gigi’s aunt.
Gigi is based on the 1945 French novel by Colette, which was made into a French film in 1948, then adapted as a stage play in 1951, with a Broadway production starring Audrey Hepburn, which was then adapted as an Oscar-winning 1958 movie musical, starring Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier. Fifteen years later, the musical crossed back over to the stage, opening on Broadway in 1978. The original West End production opened at the Lyric Theatre in 1985.
In Regent’s Park, Gigi is directed by artistic director Timothy Sheader as part of his inaugural season in the job, designed by Yannis Thavoris and choreographed by Stephen Mear, with lighting by Simon Mills, sound by Mike Walker, orchestrations by Steven Edis and musical direction by Philip Bateman. It’s the final production in this summer’s season (See News, 11 Jan 2008). The score includes “Thank Heaven for Little Girls”, “It’s a Bore”, “The Night They Invented Champagne” and “I Remember It Well”.
Thank heaven for Gigi. Generally, critics were far from bored during Sheader’s “elegant, colourful and beautifully acted” revival of a “witty, camp, and extremely entertaining” musical. The actors also fared well, although critics could not agree on which one stole the limelight, with some praising Lisa O\'Hare’s “delightfully truculent Gigi”, while others felt that Linda Thorson’s “stylish” performance led the way. There was also praise for Topol, who was credited with a warm affection and charm. Some critics suggested that Gigi “will never be one of the great musicals”, but there was an overall feeling that this production “moved beyond the stylised glamour of the famous MGM movie to something rather more interesting”.
- by Kate Jackson