Posted on: 02 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

A sparkling open air production of the Lerner &amp\; Loewe musical.

It is a hard act to follow an Oscar-winning MGM musical of the late 1950s with a modern stage version that matches the original but Timothy Sheader's production of Lerner & Loewe's Gigi at the Open Air Theatre Regent's Park is as good, if not better.

The place is Paris, the year 1900, and 16-year-old Gigi is being brought up to become a courtesan for the city's most eligible bachelor, the wealthy playboy Gaston. Her aunt and grandmother want her to marry into money and status, whereas she wants to marry for love.

What is particularly striking here are the parallels with Lerner & Loewe's later and biggest hit My Fair Lady, in which a poor flower girl aspires to greater things. Here the Cinderella-like tale concerns the transformation of the heroine of the title from sailor-suited tomboy to a woman of poise and sophistication that again captivates the heart of a truculent, moody bachelor.

Based on a story by the French author Colette, this is a lightweight musical, as was the film, but one blessed with a combination of sharp wit - "I'm old enough to know my faults but young enough to enjoy them," says Gaston's ageing uncle Honoré who missed his one real chance of marital happiness - and glorious songs, such as Thank Heaven for Little Girls, The Night They Invented Champagne, I Remember It Well and best of all Gigi.

Furthermore Sheader's revival with its sumptuous costumes, colourful parasols and typically Parisian set stylishly conveys the splendour of La Belle Époque.

Jo Morris, Topol as Honore and Kate Tydman at Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park. Photo: Alistair MuirYet it is the first-rate cast that really bring this musical so vividly to life, especially Topol, making a welcome return to the musical theatre after his marvellous performance in Fiddler on the Roof, here twinkling mischievously in a lilac-coloured dress suit as Honoré, the cynical, womanising uncle of the sugar-rich Gaston.

Alongside him are Thomas Borchert, a leading man in German musical theatre, as his world-weary nephew, Millicent Martin, also making a long overdue return to the London stage, Linda Thorson as Gigi's grandmother and aunt respectively, and Lisa O'Hare who brings a freshness and charm to the role of Gigi.

Pick a sunny day and you will be hard pressed to find a more entertaining show or one that imparts such a strong sense of joie je vivre.

Plays until 13th September 2008.

By Laurence Green

Booking Information

Box office: 0844 8264242 or:

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