Sunday, March 06, 2011

Little Girls - Alice in Wonderland and Gigi - Theatre Reviews

Alice in Wonderland - Théâtre Tout à Trac at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People - Toronto, ON - *** (out of 5 stars)
Based on the novel by Lewis Carroll, Adapted and Directed by Hugo Bélanger, Translated by Maureen Labonté
Runs until Mar. 19th 2011, Continues on a US tour.

Gigi - Reprise Theatre Company at Freud Playhouse - Los Angeles, CA - ** (out of 5 stars)
Music by Frederick Loewe, Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, Based on a novel by Colette, Directed by David Lee
Ended Feb. 27th 2011

Alice in Wonderland has always been a classic that has move beyond the realm of the books it originally came from. In fact, in the director's notes, Hugo Bélanger even notes that it's a classic many of us have never actually read, yet we all know the story of Alice falling down the rabbit hole, whether it was via Disney, last year's terrible Tim Burton adaptation, or just in its own literature brand.

The Montreal theatre company Tout à Trac has culled Lewis Carroll's story into a one-act hour long play for kids, and while I still find the overall story a bit trippy and dark, the company nicely imbues the show with some imaginatively simple (yet strangely complicated) staging using puppetry and an elaborate (yet simple looking) bookcase set, where the wonders of Alice's adventures come to life.

The puppetry and the various characters the small cast of 5 manages to portray is simply impressive, and while the set never diverts from the bookcase, there's so many little surprises and reveals that it only adds to the delirium of the story of Alice (Valérie Deault).

It was fun listening to the post-show discussion as the children in the audience got to ask questions trying to clarify the ambiguity in the story of Alice (and if it was reality or a Wonderland) and how the company managed to make its theatrical magic!

Over in LA, Jason Alexander's (Seinfeld) company recently reprised Gigi, Lerner and Lowe's classic movie musical that was later adapted into a stage musical. The production only lasts a few weeks (as all of Reprise Theatre shows do) so the production feels a bit quickly thrown together, but an often impressive cast usually gives it the professionalism that elevates it over an amped-up community theatre show.

Here, Matt Cavanaugh (Broadway's West Side Story, A Catered Affair, Grey Gardens) and William Atherton (original The House of Blue Leaves) take on the leading men roles, but both are overshadowed by Lisa O'Hare in the title role of Gigi. O'Hare is an absolute dream in this role and easily commands the stage with her voice and sparkling personality.

Strangely and sadly, while the musical is named after Gigi, she does not seem to have the biggest role, with the boys having more songs than she does, which is a shame since O'Hare should be heard singing as much as possible. Instead, Cavanaugh plays Gaston, the older family friend to Gigi (and yes, there are strong hints of My Fair Lady to this musical), it's Gaston's uncle Honoré who narrates the show and seems to have the biggest part, including singing "Thank Heaven For Little Girls", which via Atherton, feels a little creepy.

The simple set seems a bit flat, and understandable for a short run of this production, but Gigi revels in the champagne flowing vie de Paris and it's simply not enough to put us in the right mood.

The charming story doesn't manage to stay afloat amidst the imbalance in attention to the wrong characters, and while Lisa O'Hare does as much to carry the show, but when the title character isn't given the centre of attention, what can a girl do?

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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