“Every time I see a little girl of five or six or seven, ” sings an elderly man eyeing little girls in the park. His nephew gets angry when one of those girls changes out of her play clothes, a sailor suit, and into a dress and wears makeup. He even sings lines about preferring the fact that she has no shape. Is this “R. Kelly: The Musical”? Welcome to “Gigi,” state-of-the-art entertainment for 1958 when the Lerner & Loewe follow-up to “My Fair Lady” was the biggest box-office draw in the country. My, how times have changed. Even the kind of elderly audience that attends Light Opera Works’ Sunday afternoon matinees could be heard audibly gasping at some of the lines, including, “She’s so fresh, so eager, so young,” and of course, “Thank heaven for little girls.” Based on the Colette novel and originally a Broadway vehicle for a young Audrey Hepburn, believe it or not, before Lerner & Loewe musicalized it for the screen while “My Fair Lady” was still selling out on Broadway, the film was a smash success and won no less than nine Oscars, including Best Picture, before a decade and a half would pass and Lerner & Loewe would significantly revise the work and bring it to Broadway in 1973, where it had only moderate success. Part of the problem is that much of the original score was gutted for new and less interesting material, and oddly, it is that version that Light Opera Works decided to present rather than the more sparkling original, despite the obvious politically incorrect objections to virtually any version of “Gigi” in a more enlightened era. There is also the bizarre decision to have the cast attempt to approximate French accents with varying success and frequency, perhaps in imitation of the movie cast, which included Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jordan, who were actually French. But if LOW was trying to make some statement as to the contemporary relevance of this show, I missed it. And if the point to rescue a rarely heard gem for its own sake, why perform the gutted version that eliminates much of the work’s best music? (Dennis Polkow)
At Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston, (847)869-6300. This production is now closed.