Gigi: How an Unlikely Duo Created Magic on Screen and on Stage to Bring Stories to Life

Authored by Melissa Nogues

This newspaper clipping shows an advertisement for the Broadway Musical Gigi, along with an advertisement for the original Broadway cast album. Favorite songs and new songs are highlighted.

‘Gigi’ is a great example of how a story can be told in different formats to give the viewers unique experiences. The story of ‘Gigi’ originated as a novel by Collete (Barnes 1973). This was then turned into a play, which Lerner and Loewe originally decided to adapt into a movie musical in 1958 (Encyclopedia of World Biography 2020). From the movie musical, the pair then created the Broadway show with additional songs and flair. The above advertisement highlights these new changes. In this story, the main character Gigi is sent off to be taught how to be an elegant woman, but on the way she falls for a man for which an interesting arrangement is then made (Barnes 1973). The details from the original story might be lost in the musical production, but what is gained is an enchanting viewer experience.

The theater allows the audience to connect with the actors in a way that is only possible with them right there, in the flesh. It is also unique to get to experience the actors after having seen them in other shows (Kerr 1973). As Kerr notes about Alfred Drake in this production,

We are pleased … by the fact that the man is still around, alive and grinning, looking all the younger for the bright silver at his temples that is plainly makeup—the very same man we watched emerge in ‘Oklahoma’ and take off in ‘Kiss Me, Kate,’ prove his range as a fine Iago, suffer failures here and there, and go on going on. (1973, 1)

Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe started their dream team of production ability in 1942. Together they created shows such as ‘My Fair Lady’ which was “unanimously hailed as one of the finest musicals of our time” (Playbill 1973, 8). Rex Higgins, a lead in that musical, presented a tribute to the pair at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1985 (G 2012). He told the story of their unlikely partnership, stemming from a chance encounter at a social club. Loewe was older, grew up in Vienna and moved to New York to pursue his dreams of writing a great musical. In New York, he struggled and took whichever jobs he could to keep going. Lerner was going against his parent’s expectations by not going into the family dress business to instead write for theatre (G 2012). With the combined lyrical talent of Lerner and the writing ability of Loewe, they were able to bring many stories to life on stage and in film.

Lerner and Loewe’s stories often showcased struggles and the pursuit of happiness. They went on to win Tony awards, Academy awards, and more. The pair stands as inspiration for any and all to pursue their wildest dreams, especially for those from backgrounds that do not prepare for the future they envision. Through their partnership, they truly embodied love and respect, and they created their own path towards excellence in musical productions. In this way, they represent Vincentian values by which they were motivated and operated under (St. John’s University 2015). Bringing these stories to life was their way of service to their audiences, to provide what they knew best through theatre.

References

Barnes, Clive. 1973. “‘Gigi’ is Here Again as Stage Musical.” New York Times, November 14, 1973.

Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2020. “Alan Jay Lerner.” Last Modified August 11, 2020. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/alan-jay-lerner

G, Rico. 2012. “The Kennedy Center Honors – 1985- Lerner and Loewe.” Youtube, December 11, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6Lrs0nTDmA&ab_channel=RicoG

Kerr, Walter. 1973. “Thank Heaven for Alfred Drake.” New York Times, November 25, 1973.

Playbill. n.d. “Gigi.” Accessed September 28, 2020.
https://www.playbill.com/production/gigi-uris-theatre-vault-0000011090

St. John’s University. 2015. “Our Mission.” Last Modified October, 2015.
https://www.stjohns.edu/about/history-and-facts/our-mission

The New York Times. 1973. “Maria Karnilova and Daniel Massey in Lerner and Loewe’s Gigi, A New Musical for Broadway.” In JPEG format from Marymount Manhattan College, New York, NY.

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