Tuesday, 1 September 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: New Broadway Cast Recording of GIGI, starring Vanessa Hudgens

This week’s album review is of the cast recording of the 2015 revival production of Gigi, the musical, adapted by Heidi Thomas and directed by Eric D. Schaeffer – starring Vanessa Hudgens as Gigi, Corey Cott as Gaston, Howard McGillin as Honoré and Victoria Clark as Mamita. The production closed on June 21st 2015 but the soundtrack is still available to purchase.

Based on the 1944 novella by Colette, Gigi was first adapted for the Broadway stage by Anita Loos in 1951, with an unknown Audrey Hepburn in the title role. My understanding of Gigi is that it is a tale of “high-end grooming and prostitution” which is supposed to be very French; by this I mean very sexual yet classy, Parisian in its feel and driven by a real je ne said quoi. This soundtrack is missing all of the above. It sounds asexual, über American and carries no real spark or joie de vivre.  If anything, it’s demonstrably un-sexy, which was a real disappointment to me.

If you’re anything like me, when you think of Vanessa Hudgens, you think of the squeaky clean teenager from High School Musical with a squeaky clean voice to match. Back in the day, her tone may have been note perfect, but she was no soaring soprano – her voice was, unsurprisingly quite childish and immature. Well, this soundtrack was a real surprise to me. Hudgens’s voice has matured dramatically since her Disney days, and while it’s still recognizably her, the tone is much easier to listen to than it once was, and with the role of Gigi, she has proved herself as a legitimate Broadway star. Her accent is questionable at times, even more so as she seems to be the only member of the cast with this accent (whatever it is), but forgetting that, it’s a solid and convincing performance. Gigi is a challenging role that requires the transition from tempestuous brat to mature young woman, and overall, Hudgens
handles it well.

Corey Cott’s Gaston makes for a great male lead, and his solo performance of the title song “Gigi” is vocally on point; but like the rest of the soundtrack, his character comes off as a little bland. Cott makes the most with the songs and vocal direction he is given but it’s just not exciting.  That’s not to say he isn’t note-perfect, because he is, it’s just all a little bit boring.

Victoria Clark was Tony nominated for her role as Mamita, and it’s very clear to see why.  Her voice is the strongest in the cast and she showcases it beautifully through the stellar solo ‘Say a Prayer’ and ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’. The winner for me though is ‘I Remember it Well’ featuring Clark with Howard
McGillin as Honoré. The song reflects on years gone by and the history of the two characters in a wonderfully light way suggesting that she remembers everything and he remembers nothing. It is endearing and really rather humorous; one of my favourites on the soundtrack.

Gigi’s Parisian electricity is missing with this soundtrack, and it’s not one I’ll be rushing back to listen to again. I always like to think with a soundtrack that it would be improved by looking at the action on the stage infront of you, but judging by the reviews of the production from when it was open, I’m not so sure with this one! Sacré bleu…

Review by Harriet Langdown 


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