The golden era of MGM film musicals was drawing to a close when this most delightful of films was released in 1958. The original story, by the French novelist Colette, had previously been adapted into a non-musical film in 1948 starring Daniele Delorme and Gaby Morlay, and a play that was subsequently performed in New York and London. Alan Jay Lerner’s screenplay for this musical treatment was set in Paris at the turn of the century and tells of the young, strong-willed Gigi, who is being brought up by her grandmother, Mamita, and her great-aunt Alicia to be a courtesan, but breaks with that family tradition – and actually marries her suitor, Gaston Lachailles. Watching over this somewhat shocking situation is Honoré Lachailles, Gaston’s great-uncle and a good friend of Mamita. He is also a gentleman with much experience in the delights of romance, and, therefore, is appalled when Gaston, his well-heeled nephew, who, permanently surrounded by lovely ladies and all the other good things in life, suddenly declares that “It’s A Bore”. This was just one of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s memorable songs that were so skilfully integrated into the charming story. Other highlights included Chevalier’s “Thank Heaven For Little Girls”, “The Parisians” (Gigi), “Waltz At Maxim’s” (Gaston), “The Night They Invented Champagne” (Gigi-Gaston-Mamita), “Say A Prayer For Me Tonight” (Gigi), “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” (HonorÈ) and “Gigi – Gaston’s Soliloquy” (Gaston). For many, the most endearing moment came when Honoré and Mamita reminisced about old times with “I Remember It Well” (He: “You wore a gown of gold.” She: “I was all in blue.” He: “Am I getting old?” She: “Oh, no – not you.”).
“Gigi” was one of the Top 10 highest-grossing films of the 50s in the USA, but subsequent stage productions did not appeal. The 1973 Broadway production starring Alfred Drake, Agnes Moorhead, Maria Karnilova and Daniel Massey only ran for three months, and West End audiences saw Gigi for seven months in 1985-86.
In Italy “Gigi”, the musical, was first staged in 1995, starring three important and well-known actors such as Ernesto Calindri (Honoré), Liliana Feldman (Mamita), Isa Barzizza (aunt Alicia), and two young but already experienced artists in the leading roles: Gianluca Guidi as Gaston and Maria Laura Baccarini (already known to the Italian theatregoers for her performances as “Cassie” in “A Chorus Line” and “Sally Bowles” in “Cabaret”) as Gigi.
The show ran successfully all over Italy for two years.