Hutton Players at Brentwood Theatre
Colette's classic tale is a delicate flower. Didn't really survive the hothouse Hollywood treatment; blossoms much better in Anita Loos' dramatization, chosen by Hutton Players.
June Fitzgerald's production is suitably stylish – red drapes for salon and boudoir, period furniture, and, lovely touch, a mirror in the hallway allowing a furtive glimpse of callers as they arrive and depart.
The two grandes cocottes, whose mission is to launch the child Gigi into the demi-monde, are splendidly brought to life by Lindsey Crutchett as Grand'maman, and Liz Calnan, the epitome of elegance as Aunt Alicia. Gigi's fey maman, chorine at the Opera Comique, is given an amusing but sympathetic performance by Romy Brooks, who also manages the shaky, shrill soprano with aplomb.
Sterling work below stairs from Gary Ball as the laconic butler and Hilary Andrews as the pert bonne à tout faire.
Jake Portsmouth, as the sugar magnate who falls for the lanky schoolgirl, captures the suave exterior – top class tailoring – but is too callow to convince as the notorious man about town. His sudden dramatic proposal is very effective, though, and his affection for the young Gilberte is beyond doubt.
The title role is taken by Eleanor Burgess – better as the tomboy teenager than as the seductress in a Jeanne Paquin gown, but we feel for her as she listens helplessly at doors, and spiritedly rejects the shallow life of celebrity.
Lovely costumes. A cleverly designed double set, carefully lit. The music less impressive; Adolphe Adam, name-checked with Delibes in the script, might have covered the scene changes and set the fin-de-siècle mood. A great Offenbach curtain call, though. And there's a good deal of French amongst the American idiom – an evening with a dialogue coach could have enhanced the credibility of some of the cast.