COURTESY DIAMOND HEAD THEATRE
Candes Meijide Gentry is a strong vocalist who also possesses the acting skill to portray a teenager in Diamond Head Theatre's "Gigi."
A joyful cynicism
No one in Honolulu stages community theater-scale productions of classic Broadway musicals better than John Rampage, and his current production of "Gigi" at Diamond Head Theatre proves the point.
Presented by Diamond Head Theatre
Place: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
Time: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays (with 3 p.m. Saturday matinees this week and June 2), and 4 p.m. Sundays, through June 3
Tickets: $12 to $42, with discounts available for full-time students, active-duty military, and people 62 and older
Call: 733-0274 or visit diamondheadtheatre.com
The production values of the show are uniformly excellent. The stars of the show -- Candes Meijide Gentry, Scott Wallace, Gary Morris, Terri Madden and Devon Guard -- bring their colorful characters to life. The cast does justice to the beautifully crafted songs of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, all making this DHT show a joyful, albeit cynical, look at male/female relationships.
Set in early 20th-century Paris, Gaston Lachaille (played by Wallace) is a bon vivant of indeterminate age who takes perverse delight in being bored by everything, including the glamorous women he enjoys and discards in his high-profile affairs. Things change, however, when he realizes that he enjoys being with Gigi (Gentry), the pubescent granddaughter of one of his uncle's ex-lovers. Gigi's grandmother, Mamita (Madden), is preparing her for a career as a gentleman's mistress with the assistance of Gigi's aunt, Alicia (Guard), who has amassed a considerable personal fortune over the years in said profession.
Many of the musical's funniest moments occur when wealthy old Honore (Morris) ruminates on relationships between the sexes, and when Aunt Alicia teaches Gigi how to recognize top quality gems, explaining the reasons she should always avoid semiprecious stones.
ONE OF THE toughest challenges in casting "Gigi" is finding a lead who both has the vocal training required by the score while believably playing a teenager. Gentry succeeds on both counts. She lays claim to the character with a superb rendition of her first showcase number, "The Earth and Other Minor Things," and then builds on it as she brings the same vivacity and exquisite tone and phrasing to "The Night They Invented Champagne" and "I Never Want to Go Home Again."
Throughout the first act and well into the second, Gentry does a perfect job physically portraying a child-woman who continues to think of herself as a child even as those around her are anticipating the changes to come.
The only glitch comes in the pivotal scene where Gigi appears on Gaston's arm for their triumphant evening at Maxim's. Even though she's coifed and dressed as a mature woman of the world, Gentry still looks young, her character being paraded about by her lover for an evening with the adults.
Wallace owns the role of Gaston, although it would've been perfect for DHT veteran Laurence Paxton were he not the show's musical director.
Morris puts in a winning performance as Gaston's uncle and confidant. He opens the show with an engaging rendition of "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and makes "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" one of the most magical moments of Act II. He also captures the romance and the pathos when he shares a park bench with Madden on their show-stopping duet of the poignant "I Remember It Well."
The duo of Madden and Guard work well as the protective yet pragmatic grandmother and cold and practical aunt, respectively. The two, in particular, mesh well on the number "The Contract," as Mamita, Aunt Alicia and their attorney meet with Gaston's attorney to set the financial terms for Gaston's acquisition of Gigi as his next mistress. With Aunt Alicia handling the negotiations, it's an expensive acquisition indeed!
Director/choreographer Rampage has also assembled noteworthy performers in secondary roles. Scott Moura stands out as Gaston's hapless attorney, Daniel James Kunkel adds comic impact first as a hotel receptionist and later as Gigi's attorney, and Bob Malis brings a strong voice and commanding stage presence to his big scene as an ethnocentric telephone installer.
Chuck Anctil got laughs with his portrayal of Aunt Alicia's elderly butler, and Fedrico Biven helps make "It's A Bore (Reprise)" another musical highlight in this consistently entertaining production.