Vanessa Hudgens Stars as “Gigi” on Broadway

When it was announced that Gigi would be returning to Broadway, I was intrigued. I had semi-fond memories of seeing the original 1958 musical film, which features beautiful Parisian scenes, but also has a troubling plot, with a girl  being molded into courtesan for a much older man. It also has one of the creepiest songs known to musical theatre:

No. Just… no. (Source: Tumblr)

When it was also announced that Vanessa Hudgens would take on the titular role, I was even more intrigued. I honestly haven’t seen her in much since her High School Musical days, other than her annual pilgrimage to Coachella, the music festival of fringe-laden clothes and hair feathers. I wondered how this production would fare, and whether Hudgens actually had the chops to pull it off.

Gigi takes place in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. While romance is alive in the city of love, marriage is not, and wealthy men and their beautiful mistresses are often the talk of the town. Gigi (Hudgens) belongs to a family of courtesans, and receives lessons from her Aunt Alicia (Dee Hoty). Gigi’s grandmother Mamita (Victoria Clarkson) wants Gigi to enjoy being a child as long as possible, insisting that she remain innocent. But when close friend of the family Gaston (Corey Cott) cuts ties with his latest mistress, Aunt Alicia sees an opportunity for Gigi that even Mamita can no longer ignore. When Gigi comes into her own, she has to decide whether becoming Gaston’s mistress is enough for her happiness.

Before/After. (Photos by Joan Marcus)

Despite my misgivings, Gigi is an entertaining night at the theatre. The performances are all nuanced and engaging, from Dee Hoty’s queenly Aunt Alicia to Victoria Clarkson’s sweet Mamita. I was also charmed by Corey Cott as Gaston, and much preferred his younger man-about-town version of the character. It helped make his pairing with young Gigi more palatable and less like a musical redux of Lolita. Vanessa Hudgens did a fine job as Gigi, capturing the character’s gamine essence with energy and charm. (Even better, she sings and dances the part as well as a regular stage actress.) My one quibble with her performance was her diction: it’s as if she was given a note to enunciate her lines, resulting in every “t” to be overemphasized. Other than her “t” issue, Vanessa Hudgens was a wonderful Gigi, and she can definitely hold her own on a Broadway stage.

photo (1)
Mamita (Victoria Clark), Gigi (Vanessa Hudgens), and Gaston (Corey Cott). (Photo by Margot Schulman)

While the revival Gigi works overall, I wonder who the intended audience is. Of course, the ideal answer for Broadway is everyone, but that doesn’t quite work for this production. General audience members and musical theatre lovers may not be wowed by Gigi, as its story-line and score tread a well-worn path made by a more beloved musical by Gigi creators Lerner and Loewe. The New York Times review of the original film said it best, when it called Gigi “a musical film that bears such a basic resemblance to My Fair Lady that the authors may want to sue themselves.” Even fans of the original Gigi film may not be pleased with a former Newsie playing Gaston, a character who is supposed to be pushing forty. Nor would they enjoy a former Disney starlet who still reads more as a contemporary American than a European girl at the turn of the 20th century. And while fans of Vanessa Hudgens will delight at seeing her take a starring turn on a Broadway stage, I wonder if they will be as entranced by the older source material. One thing is certain though: Vanessa Hudgens has much more to offer as a performer, and I look forward to seeing what other things she could do.

For more thoughts on the show, listen to our podcast!

“On the Town” Shows Broadway How a Musical Revival is Done

Broadway revivals are a staple of New York’s theatre tradition. While producers’ motivations are obviously marked by dollar signs, revivals also provide theatergoers with an opportunity to see a beloved production live–and not just subsist on cast recordings, film adaptations, and memories of performances past. This season’s revival of On the Town, now playing at the Lyric Theatre, offers audiences a chance to see a Golden Age classic–and have a rip-roaring good time in the process.

The plot of On the Town is simple: sailors Gabey (Tony Yazbeck), Chip (Jay Armstrong Johnson), and Ozzie (Clyde Alves) are on leave in New York City for 24 hours. They all have something they want to accomplish that day. Chip wants to see all the sights. Ozzie wants to see all the girls–and is probably the inspiration for these kind of posters:

(Source: Mentalfloss)

Gabey’s goal ends up to be the most pressing, as he wants to meet the latest Miss Turnstiles: Ivy Smith, (Megan Fairchild), whose poster captures Gabey’s imagination and heart. The boys split up to find Ivy, finding romance along the way. Chip meets Hildy (Alysha Umphress), a taxi driver intent on bringing Chip to her place. Meanwhile, Ozzie falls for Claire De Loone (Elizabeth Stanley), an archeologist who is more unhinged than she seems. Though Gabey does find Ivy, it isn’t certain if he will join his dream girl in a musical happy-ever-after.


On the Town is a delightful musical, and this production seems to have no difficulty in bringing that delight to the stage. With John Rando’s perfectly paced direction and Joshua Bergasse’s stunning choreography, On the Town dazzles from start to finish. The musical numbers are brilliant, being both hilarious (“Carried Away,” “I Wish I Was Dead,” and many more) and poignant (“Lonely Town,” “Some Other Time”). And while I’m not the biggest dancing enthusiast, the dream ballet sequences in On the Town (which surprisingly outnumber the ones in West Side Story) are a must see. They are mini-productions in their own right, with gorgeous dancing narratives supported by Leonard Bernstein’s lush score.


On the Town’s cast is another winning element. First off, it is wonderful that a musical revival has a cast more diverse than its original mounting. People of all ages, body types, and ethnicities round out the ensemble, which is something refreshing–and welcoming–to see. There are also standout performances by all: New York City Ballet principal dancer Megan Fairchild is an adorable Ivy, as well as being the reigning queen of dream ballet sequences. Elizabeth Stanley embodies kooky fierceness as Claire De Loone, while Alysha Umphress slays the role of Hildy with her voice alone. The three actors playing our lovable sailors are also fantastic with their roles. Having playful energy and the dancing and singing chops to back it up, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Clyde Alves are the embodiment of musical theatre fun. And Tony Yazbeck, with his beautiful voice and soulful eyes, is the perfect protagonist to root for. He’s also a welcome member of the shirtless men in musical theatre guild.

Ramin Karimloo, the guild’s president. (Source:

On the Town is a revival that has energy, focus, and most importantly, has fun. And with a great musical, that’s all you need for a night at the theatre.

EVITA on Broadway

We here at LMezz made sure to catch one of last year’s biggest hits at the Marquis before it closes in (gasp) two weeks.  Some thoughts:


I’ve forgotten how gorgeous Broadway musicals can be. The sets in this production, directed by Brit big shot Michael Grandage, are just breathtaking. I couldn’t stop admiring all their details and realisms. Same goes for the costumes. I was also a big fan of the choreography, by Rob Ashford. I was happy to see that the energy and novelty of dance routine I caught a small glimpse of during their TONY awards presentation was consistent throughout. The performances were also excellent (but why is Michael Cerveris the only one with an accent? hmph) even though we caught Christina DeCiccio, and not Elena Roger, in the title role.

My only quip though is that I couldn’t get much of a storyline out of it. I left the theater feeling like I hadn’t learned much else about Evita than the bare basics I already knew: the she was an actress who married a dictator and then she was a national darling and then she died. If you were to ask me anything more specific– What were her policies? What were her husband’s policies? Why did she die? Did she actually care about the people? Or was it all a shtick?– I would give a gloomy “I don’t know.” And while I appreciate Che’s feeble attempt to expose Evita for who she really was… I still don’t know who she really was.

Maybe a closer listen to the soundtrack will resolve some of these issues. But overall, having just experienced that odd feeling that I just saw a glorious show and I still don’t know what it’s about, my dominant thoughts were, Damn, I have a lot of homework to do.


Before I start, I do want to confess that I am not the biggest Andrew Lloyd Webber fan and enjoy Love Never Dies expressly to mock it (and ogle Ramin Karimloo).
No, you sing.
Now back to Evita. I was really impressed by the actors’ performances. Michael Cerveris is a reliable Perón, and Ricky Martin shows a lot of voice and charisma as Che. Christina DeCicco as the titular Evita has a spitfire energy and pipes to match, though I wonder if she could have brought more of an emotional stake to “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.”

One pet peeve of mine involved the accents from the ensemble. When they sang in Spanish, they sounded more like a boys’ choir than anything remotely Argentinian. When Broadway productions go through so many efforts to replicate anything from Australian to German to Irish, it amazes me when that care isn’t equally taken to a language that in this city is easily heard at your local grocery store.

Another cringe-worthy moment was any part of Webber’s score that goes into “rock ‘n’ roll” mode. It might be just the arrangement, but it sounds so dated. I noticed a similar dated sound in last season’s revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.

The biggest question in my mind though was: What is Evita’s purpose?  Grandage’s additions of historical footage and actual portraits of Eva and Juan made it seem like a biography of Eva Perón, which doesn’t quite match the show’s sensibilities. Also, the characters never have a narrative arc or learn anything. Che is still frustrated, and Eva remains insistent that she did right by her country in the song “Lament.” The show has too much rock ‘n’ roll spectacle and not enough dramatic storytelling.

But if your main reason to see the Evita revival was to see Ricky Martin living la vida loca, then you get your money’s worth. Here’s hoping that he’ll appear in something better if he continues to make forays on Broadway.

A Streetcar Named Desire

I wrote a review for Broadway Informer for this season’s revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. Here it is!

This latest production of  A Streetcar Named Desire is severely underrated. Many critics have had visions of Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando (the stars of the 1951 film) and Cate Blanchett (who played Blanche in the 2009 revival at BAM) dancing in their heads and could not appreciate the production with a fresh eye.

Yes, this Streetcar takes a departure with its multiracial cast. Produced by the same company that brought an all-black Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to Broadway in 2008, Streetcar’s ethnic ensemble includes Nicole Ari Parker as Blanche, Blair Underwood as Stanley, and Daphne Rubin-Vega as Stella. Parker’s Blanche was revelatory. Her strength in the role made sense, as she had lived alone for many years harboring her secrets before coming to Stanley and Stella’s home. Only now does her resolve begin to crumble, and it is a sight to behold.

The other cast members also deliver solid performances. Underwood’s Stanley (née Kowalski, as the production excises references to his Polish background) is equal parts menacing and captivating (he also looks great shirtless). And Rubin-Vega takes a capable turn as Stella, providing the balance to Blanche and Stanley’s extremes.

The very existence of this production is fabulous. A recent survey of Broadway and leading nonprofit theater companies found that in the past five theater seasons, only 13.2% and 3.5% of African Americans and Latinos were employed. This production helps to alleviate that problem. It also gives deserving actors an opportunity they would not have had otherwise. Far more than a novelty production, this revival of Streetcar is an exciting production in its own right, bringing a new and refreshing take on a classic.

Favorite scene/song: The birthday scene. The tension was high, and I got a real sense of the dynamic in Stanley’s household.
What is the show about? The tragic destruction of a Southern belle when she goes to stay at her sister and brother-in-law’s home.
Who is this show for? Theatergoers and Williams fans interested in a new take on Streetcar, as well as young audience members needing an introduction to a classic.
What’s good/bad? Besides the acting described above, the direction by Emily Mann, and the set design by Eugene Lee is great. I also enjoyed the production’s attention to bringing out the humor of the play. The only quibble I had was Blanche and Stanley’s pivotal scene (those who are familiar with the play know what I’m talking about). Despite all the build-up, it had high shock value and not as much emotional impact.
What happened at the Stage Door? We had to wait a bit longer than usual because the director was giving the cast notes. Almost everyone came out to sign playbills and take photos, and they were all very kind and gracious.

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