Lisa O'Hare, Matt Cavenaugh, Susan Denaker,
William Atherton and Millicent Martin in Gigi
(© Ed Krieger)
Lisa O'Hare, Matt Cavenaugh, Susan Denaker,
William Atherton and Millicent Martin in Gigi
(© Ed Krieger)
Reprise's production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's Gigi, now at the UCLA Freud Playhouse, is more of a pleasant sparkling wine than the fine French champagne one might expect.

It's a battle of the sexes both thematically and on the stage, as the women in the cast -- especially the glorious Lisa O'Hare in the title role -- bring much of the charm, humor, and enchantment to the production. As the naive young woman trained by her grandmother and aunt to be a lady of leisure, O'Hare is inquisitive, confrontational and innocently alluring. Those in the first rows cannot ignore O'Hare's expressive eyes that seem to feel every line, and she delicately uses mannerisms to enhance Gigi's impishness.

Unfortunately, under David Lee's direction, the production can't live up to its leading lady. For one thing, the sheer opulence of the famed MGM film is sorely missing here, as are the movie's career-capping performance by Maurice Chevalier as the dashing Honore, and the charming nonchalance of Louis Jordan as his nephew, Gaston, a playboy who uses and discards women like tissue. (The musical also eliminates Gigi's comical "I Don't Understand the Parisians" for some odd reason.)

Indeed, William Atherton proves ill-equipped for the role of Honore. He mumbles throughout and he comes off cold and creepy during his interpretation of "Thank Heaven For Little Girls," thanks to his leering glances and drunken-sounding singing voice. As Gaston, Matt Cavenaugh is suitably handsome and has an attractive voice; but his performance lacks warmth, and his love for Gigi is never palpable -- so the sudden happy ending does not appear as happy as it should. (In addition, his accent varies from Irish to American, but he never sounds French.)

The rest of the supporting cast fares better. Millicent Martin enraptures as Gigi's grandmama, who is both subservient to her haughtier sister Aliicia's schemes and genuinely adoring of her grandchild. She also demonstrates her exquisite timing in "I Remember It Well." Susan Denaker is snidely funny as the horrid Alicia; Chryssie Whitehead is pleasantly insincere as Liane, and the irreplaceable Jason Graae makes the most of his bit roles.