Gigi – Original Broadway Cast Recording 1973
Colette’s Gigi had made a star of Audrey Hepburn – yes, Audrey Hepburn – when Anita Loos’s adaptation was produced on Broadway in 1951. Five years later the play was recommended to the creators of My Fair Lady, who were looking for a follow-up. Alan Jay Lerner was intrigued, but Fritz Loewe and director Moss Hart both disliked it. Not long thereafter, Lerner got a call from film producer Arthur Freed, for whom he’d scripted the 1951 Oscar®-winner An American In Paris. Lerner owed MGM another picture, and they wanted him to do a property they’d owned for five years – Colette’s Gigi. Loewe still wasn’t interested; but Lerner’s first draft swayed him, and history and ten Oscars® were made. By the time the film opened in 1958, Loewe had suffered a massive heart attack and wasn’t much interested in doing another show. He eventually acquiesced to Lerner’s entreaties to come back for Camelot, with the proviso that “if he worried about it and couldn’t enjoy it, he was going to get out. One night halfway through the tryouts,” Lerner recalled, “he came to me and said, ‘My boy, I can’t do it anymore.’” Loewe announced his retirement even before Camelot opened. (Moss Hart, who didn’t retire, suffered a fatal heart attack. Loewe called Hart “the only man in the theatre without an ego,” presumably darting a steely-eyed glare at his longtime collaborator.) In 1967 Lerner asked Loewe to pitch in on some additional songs for the screen adaptation of their flawed Paint Your Wagon. Loewe said no, authorizing Gigi musical director André Previn to complete the score (which led to the Lerner/Previn Coco.) “What really brought me back” after an eleven-year hiatus, explained Loewe, “was the magnificent screenplay Alan wrote for The Little Prince” (which wasn’t released until 1974). When Civic Light Opera producer Edwin Lester made one of his periodic requests to do a stage version of Gigi, Loewe agreed because “we were having such a good time working together.” The People If Maurice Chevalier had been a natural for the role of Honoré on the screen, Alfred Drake was the obvious choice for Broadway. Drake, who in his younger days had created brashly romantic leads in Oklahoma!, Kiss Me, Kate, and Kismet, brought great charm, charisma and know-how to the project. And at fifty-nine, he was just the right age to be “Glad I’m Not Young Anymore.” Gigi was to be his final Broadway musical. . . . A member of Orson Welles’s Mercury Radio Theatre, Agnes Moorehead (in the expanded role of Aunt Alicia) made her motion picture debut in 1941 in Citizen Kane; by 1955 she had received four Academy Award® nominations as well as making an auspicious Broadway debut in 1951 in Charles Laughton’s production of Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan In Hell. Despite all of which she was best known as the tart mother-in-law on television’s Bewitched, which had just ended its eight-year run in 1972. Moorehead was forced by illness to withdraw from Gigi after the opening, succumbing to cancer on April 30, 1974. She was replaced by Arlene Francis. . . . Some reviewers expressed delighted surprise at Maria Karnilova’s high kicking can-can in “The Night They Invented Champagne.” They needn’t have; she’d been on her toes long before creating Tevye’s Golda and Zorba’s Hortense. Karnilova joined the Metropolitan Opera children’s corps de ballet in 1927 at the age of seven, and as an adult spent twelve years with Ballet Theatre. In 1959 Jerry Robbins, who had danced with and choreographed for her for more than twenty years, finally gave her some lines – as dressy Tessie Tura, Gypsy‘s demure butterfly stripper with a gimmick – and a comedienne was born. . . . British actor Daniel Massey (son of Raymond) had not been on Broadway since making his musical debut in 1963 as Georg Nowack in She Loves Me. He had, however, received an Oscar® nomination playing Noel Coward to Julie Andrews’s Gertie Lawrence in the 1968 movie musical Star. And then there was Gigi. Extensive auditioning resulted in – nobody to fill the slippers of the cinema’s Leslie Caron. Then Kate Hepburn, Lerner’s Coco, called to say she’d found the perfect girl in a London rock production of Carmen. Thus, twenty-year-old pop singer Terese Stevens got the nod. When Gigi premiered in San Francisco, though, the biggest of the several weaknesses revealed was its heroine. Stevens’s light rock style seemed sorely at odds with the ethereal nature of the character. “She’s more of a belter than Leslie Caron,” explained Lerner as he fashioned new material for her; but Stevens was soon sent packing. “She was marvelous,” explained Lerner once she was safely out of the country, “but casting her as Gigi was like asking Ethel Merman to play Little Jo.” Stevens was replaced by standby Karin Wolfe, who explained in a rather curious interview that Terry left “because she had to pay double income tax.” Wolfe, at twenty-eight, was a bit seasoned for the part. She had made her Broadway debut as one of the sad girls Dick Van Dyke importuned to “Put On A Happy Face” way back in 1960, and was featured in the 1963 revival of Best Foot Forward. And for that matter, she – not Ethel Merman – played the title role in Jo, the 1964 Off-Broadway Little Women musical. The Score The impetus behind this new Gigi, its marvelous score, needed some filling out. “Say A Prayer For Me Tonight” was cut from the outset: impossible to stage, said Lerner (forgetting, presumably, that it was introduced by Julie Andrews on the eve of the Embassy Ball in the New Haven try-out of My Fair Lady). Lerner and Loewe initially wrote six new songs, including three for the title character: “All About Gaston,” which was cut during rehearsals when Terry Stevens couldn’t sing it; “In This Wide, Wide World;” and “I Never Want To Go Home Again.” The others were “Da Da Da Da,” a song of high society gossip; “Everything French Is Better,” a second-act curtain raiser for Karnilova and a quartet of telephone installers; and “The Contract.” During the extensive San Francisco revisioning, Gigi’s opening number “(I Don’t Understand) The Parisians” was replaced by the more sympathetic “The Earth and Other Minor Things,” and crowd-pleaser Alfred Drake was given an additional song, “Paris Is Paris Again” (apparently a revised version of “Da Da Da Da”). A second-act reprise of the latter remained in the show until it was dumped in Detroit. “Everything French Is Better,” whittled down to twenty-four bars, remained in the show but was not included on the recording. Neither was the first act finale “I Never Want To Go Home Again” (“which made me want to go home immediately,” opined one scribe). Lerner’s lyric for this is a bit unwieldy (“All I want to do is/Be where not a shoe is”??), but a fragment of Loewe’s rather lovely melody can be heard at the top of the Overture. As it turned out, only “The Contract” added to the effectiveness of the original score. A nine-minute musical negotiation, it incorporates “À Toujours,” a lovely Loewe waltz cut from the film version (here reset to “seven rooms”). The head lawyer in this number, incidentally, is George Gaynes, strong-voiced leading man of Out Of This World and Wonderful Town. The Results Following the World Premiere at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre on May 15, 1973, Gigi played a six-month tour – during which Lerner unofficially took over as director, as was his habit – before coming to Broadway’s Uris (now Gershwin) Theatre on November 13, 1973. Gigi closed there on February 10, 1974, after 7 previews and 103 performances, with a loss of about $440,000 on an $800,000 investment. Despite its flaws, the stage Gigi has enjoyed a healthy, income-producing after-life, including constant stock and amateur activity. In one of those questionable “special” rulings, the folks at the Tony Awards® deemed Gigi eligible for Best Score, as the songs had never been performed on Broadway. (Not true, actually; the film initially premiered as a reserved seat attraction at the Royale.) Thus Lerner and Loewe, amidst protest, won a final Tony® for their sixteen-year-old score. Gigi had already shuttered, though. Looking back on its failure, Lerner faulted the overblown production imposed on what was basically a charming, intimate story (“like putting a saddle on a Pekingese”). During rehearsals, Loewe (at age seventy-two) and Lerner (a much younger fifty-five) were asked about the possibility of future collaboration. Fritz: “It will depend on whether people still like what we do.” Alan: “If we present something we like and no one else likes, we’re out of step somewhere.” Fritz: “Then, brother, this is it.” And it was. “I have a limited time to amuse myself, amuse my soul,” said the composer of My Fair Lady, “and when I do, I’d rather play the Appassionata.” Loewe went back to Palm Springs, where he died on February 14, 1988 – outlasting Lerner, who struggled through 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Carmelina and Dance a Little Closer before his death on June 14, 1986. “Can you reinvent champagne?” asked Clive Barnes of The New York Times. “Yes you can, but it may come out tasting just a little more like New York State than Veuve Clicquot the second time around.” True, Gigi proved problematic as a stage vehicle. But Fritz Loewe’s roots were deep within the Viennese operetta tradition; his work, naturally, sounds best emanating from a pit orchestra. It is no wonder, then, that this cast album of Gigi remains an enduring, frothy delight.
– Steven Suskin, Author of Show Tunes and Opening Night on Broadway
Honoré Lachailles: Alfred Drake Gaston Lachailles: Daniel Massey Liane d’Exelmans: Sandahl Bergman Inez Alvarez (Mamita): Maria Karnilova Gigi: Karin Wolfe Aunt Alicia: Agnes Moorehead Charles (Her Butler): Gordon De Vol A French: Head Waiter; Receptionist; Telephone Installer; Maitre d’hotel: Joe Ross Two Waiters: Leonard John Crofoot, Thomas Stanton Liane’s Dance Partner: Thomas Anthony An Artist: Patrick Spohn A Count : Joel Pressman Sandomir: Randy Di Grazio Dancing Teacher: Gregory Drotar Manuel: Truman Gaige Maitre Du Fresne: George Gaynes Maitre Duclos: Howard Chitjian Two Law Clerks: Leonard John Crofoot, Thomas Stanton Ensemble: Thomas Anthony, Alvin Beam, Russ Beasley, Robyn Blair, Leonard John Crofoot, Gordon De Vol, Randy Di Grazio, John Dorrin, Gregory Drotar, Janis Eckhart, Margit Haut, Andy Keyser, Beverly Kopels, Diane Lauridsen, Merilee Magnuson, Kelley Maxwell, Vickie Patik, Joel Pressman, Patrick Spohn, Thomas Stanton, Cherie Suzanne, Marie Tillmanns, Sallie True Little Girls: Patricia Daly, Jill Turnbull