This past fall I tried to spread out my coverage and awareness of the vast riches of San Diego, and discovered there was life beyond the Old Globe and La Jolla Playhouse. These other venues included the Starlight Bowl, the Cygnet Theatre, the Moonlight Amphitheatre, the San Diego Repertory, and a refurbished theatre, the Lyric at the Birch. The Lyric is celebrating 32 years of bringing “affordable opera and musical theatre productions to San Diego.” I have been going to San Diego for years and was not aware of this group. They perform operas and musicals (in English) using the finest young local talent, with a full orchestra and chorus. I managed to catch their lovely production of Gigi back in October.
The performances of Gigi were conducted and directed by Leon Natker. The 24-piece orchestra sounded wonderful and Maestro Natker (who will play Tevye later in the season) kept things moving at a crisp pace. The simple but effective scenic design was by J. Sherwood Montgomery, with lights by Elvira Perez, and costumes, makeup, and hair by Pam Stompoly-Ericson with costumes from The Theatre Company. The choreography was created by Shirley Giltner.
Gigi was by the famous team of Lerner and Loewe and actually was the last time they worked together. The musical is based on a novel and 1958 hit movie musical of the same name. The beloved movie starred Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold, and newcomer Leslie Caron, and earned nine Academy Awards including Best Picture. Trying to cash in on the film’s success, the musical was transformed into a vehicle for the stage; Gigi ran a disappointing 103 performances but did win a Tony Award for Best Score. The score is lovely and has such songs as “Thank Heaven For Little Girls,” “The Night They Invented Champagne,” “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore,” “Paris is Paris Again,” and “I Remember It Well.”