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Review Roundup: Broadway-Bound GIGI at Kennedy Center- UPDATED!

The new Broadway production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's beloved Oscar and Tony Award-winning film and stage musical, Gigi, officially opened its pre-Broadway engagement in the Eisenhower Theater at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on January 29, 2015.

The production stars Vanessa Hudgens who will make her Broadway debut as Gigi, Tony Award-winner and two-time Tony Award-nominee Victoria Clark as Mamita Alvarez, Corey Cott as Gaston Lachaille, three-time Tony Award-nominee Dee Hoty as Aunt Alicia, two-time Tony Award-nominee Howard McGillin as Honoré Lachaille and Steffanie Leigh as Liane d'Exelmans. Gigi features a new book adaptation by Heidi Thomas and is choreographed by Emmy Award-winner Joshua Bergasse and directed by Eric Schaeffer.

The cast also features Cameron Adams, Kathryn Boswell, Max Clayton, Madeleine Doherty, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald,Hannah Florence, Alison Jantzie, Brian Ogilvie, Ian Paget, James Patterson, Justin Prescott, Manuel Stark, Tanairi Sade Vazquez, Richard White, Amos Wolff and Ashley Yeater.

Let's see what the critics had to say:

Chrles Shubow, BroadwayWorld: The producers are banking on Vanessa Hudgens, the wonderfully talented star of Disney's blockbuster film "High School Musical" and the sequels, to attract a younger audience. She has the tough task of playing a young, naive, adorable 18 year old known as "Gigi". In the first act, she is all "giggles" and runs around the stage like a typical young teenager looking for fun and enjoyment. I was tempted to say "I'll have what she's having." She has a zest for life, a good voice and moves well. Whether Hudgens becomes a Broadway star is another story. She certainly has a lot of energy. Her costume in Act I will remind you of the character "Madeline". But I wonder what young girls will think about the story which focuses on turning this young lady in Act II into a courtesan. How do you explain that to your children? The two women responsible for this task are her guardians, grandmother "Mametta" and "Aunt Alicia". It is such a pleasure to see again the Tony winning Victoria Clark ( LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA) back on stage as Mametta. Whenever she appears, she just takes over the show. Likewise, Dee Hoty (who I recall played a great "Donna" in MAMMA MIA!) milks the role of Aunt Alicia. It is tough for Hudgens to compare to these great actors at such a young age.

Paul Harris, Variety: Performances on the whole are sturdy. Hudgens delivers a solid performance in a challenging role that requires a transition from impetuous brat to mature young woman. A strong singer, Hudgens nails both her vocal and dancing duties, with the former especially showcased in Act One's spunky "The Parisians." Cott convinces as the self-assured playboy and his strong tenor voice impresses in the title tune, carefully placed in the second act as the character discovers his true feelings for Gigi. Director Schaeffer has stretched the cast to adopt a melodramatic style, at times employing exaggerated movements and an effete style of speech, especially in the introductory scenes. The technique can be wearing at times, especially in Act One scenes involving the two strident guardians. Thankfully, the forced French accents employed in the 1958 film have wisely been dispensed with...

Peter Marks, The Washington Post: All in all, this Broadway-bound revival, with a majorly tweaked new book by British playwright Heidi Thomas, is well thought out and well handled, especially courtesy of a runway's worth of sumptuous evening gowns by Catherine Zuber, and the elegant choreography by Joshua Bergasse. But the production, which had its official opening Thursday night, is also a reminder that "Gigi" is not a great musical, nothing really special. It's forever very okay - no matter how much the song assignments and gender politics are fiddled with. Its status as a lesser "My Fair Lady" has been remarked on, accurately, many times before. Hudgens brandishes only one tool, an unsuppressed giggle, for most of Act 1; cuteness, alas, is pretty much all the first 75 minutes of the show ask of her. She's much more convincing in the altogether stronger Act 2, after her rather abrupt transformation from child into woman. Here Zuber dresses her the way Cecil Beaton would Audrey Hepburn, in shimmering white with black finishes, and she's permitted to show some becoming spark.

Jayne Blanchard, DC Theatre Scene: Vanessa Hudgens is a brief breath of spring amid this harsh winter as the spirited gamine Gigi in a new, Broadway-bound production of the Lerner and Loewe musical an adorable bundle of energy, youthful impertinence and carefree guile as the care of her warmly indulgent grandmother Mamita (a superb Victoria Clark), eavesdrops and soaks up every detail of what café society is wearing, doing, and romancing...The youthening of Gigi works, for the most part. Cott has the looks and the pipes to play a dashing playboy, and the little bit of dancing he does shows athletic agility, but a certain je ne sais quoi is lacking. He seems quintessentially American -- can-do and robust, more corn-fed than caviar-fed...the production is as pretty as a Renoir pastel portrait. Yet on the whole -- with the exception of Hoty and Clark, who embody the decorous allure of turn-of-the-century women of their station -- there is not a lot particularly, charmingly Parisian about Gigi.

Gary Tischler, The Georgetowner: As it stands, this "Gigi" delivers on the entertainment -- the familiar songs are sung with knowing passion, the sets and costumes are outstanding, and Signature Theatre's artistic director Eric Schaeffer frames this version in a welcome, if not surprising, melodrama...Hudgens -- small, dark-haired, nimble, energetic and appealing -- handles the role with enthusiasm. She's that high-strung young adolescent who carries authenticity around as if it were part of her quaint school uniform...For this production, Howard McGillin is the roguish roué Honore Lachaille, with the kind of affability that suggests that roués are full of rue. Gigi's protectors -- Mamita, played with strong-voiced warmth by Victoria Clark, and Aunt Alicia, played with alarming and beguiling cynicism by Dee Hoty -- command the stage when they're on, while Corey Cott, strong voiced and handsome, plays what amounts to the perfect boyfriend -- Gaston LaChaille, inventor, zillionaire, lover, celebrity, sort of a younger, single George Clooney of the boulevard. "Gigi" is more than adequately entertaining. It's like the best sort of ice cream that goes down smoothly.

Leslie Milk, Washingtonian: Talent will out in this production. Victoria Clark and Dee Hoty steal the show to a degree that often makes the Gigi-Gaston romance seem like a subplot. Hudgens and Cott are fair of face and sweet of voice, but they can't compete with the powerful performances of the old pros. Still, Gigi is a feast for the eye as well as the ear. The costumes (by Catherine Zuber) are sumptuous, the sets (Derek McLane) are gorgeous, and the lighting (Natasha Katz) is magical. Director Eric Schaeffer capably helms this old gem, and casting Hudgens, the star of High School Musical, is bound to attract younger audiences. See it before Gigi picks up her picture hat and moves to Broadway.

Gina Jun, DC Metro Theatre Arts: On the whole, the 29-member ensemble executes a striking show. Hudgens, in her Broadway debut, delivers an outstanding performance, physically and emotionally transforming Gigi from a naïve, bright-eyed teenager to a sophisticated young woman. Showcasing skilled vocal range, acting and dancing ability throughout the production, including "The Parisians" in Act One and "The Letter" in Act Two, Hudgens proved that she is indeed a triple threat on stage. Corey Cott, as Gaston, is convincing as the town's most sought after bachelor, displaying comfortable confidence with aplomb. Cott's robust tenor voice is controlled yet spirited, which is particularly underscored in the iconic title tune, strategically sung in the third scene of the second act as Gaston explores his emotions and ascertains his adoration for Gigi.

Michelle Alexandria, I'll admit it, I love the Disney Channel and recently discovered the High School Musical franchise (I never claimed to be a trendsetter). I was curious to see what VHud would do with this classic part. I came away both impressed and a bit underwhelmed at the same time. In many ways she's almost too perfect a choice to play the bubbly Gigi. She does a fabulous job in the first half of the production where she plays the young, bubbly, tomboyish teenager, but the transition into adult Gigi feels odd (more on this later). Hudgens brings a nice sense of naive wonder to the part. This isn't a musical that really showcases her vocal range. All of her numbers are meant to be upbeat, like the the fun, energetic, but weird "The Night They Invented Champagne," one of Hudgens' truly stand-out moments.

Photo: Joan Marcus

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