Tony Award-winning The Light in the Piazza star Victoria Clark recently concluded her run in the Kennedy Center's out-of-town engagement of the reworked version of the classic musical Gigi, which will arrive on Broadway March 19 at the Neil Simon Theatre. Directed by Eric Schaeffer with choreography by Joshua Bergasse, the Alan Jay Lerner-Frederick Loewe musical — featuring a new book adapted by Emmy-nominated screenwriter Heidi Thomas — casts Clark as Mamita, grandmother to Gigi, played by Vanessa Hudgens.
Clark's first blog entry for Playbill.com is titled "When a Cast Becomes a Family." Check back for the acclaimed singing actress' second entry once previews begin on Broadway.
It will be almost exactly nine months between the July 2014 workshop of the remake of Lerner and Loewe's Gigi and the scheduled Broadway opening this April. Last night was our final performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and this morning, we pack up and disperse to all corners of the globe: the Caribbean, Rio, North Carolina, New Zealand, California, New York. While we need the rest and recovery time from this trimester of work, we also realize that we are in the middle of creating something very special, and we are closer now than we ever were. We have the road to thank for that. Nothing like camping out for six weeks in the dead of winter in a new city, with a new-old property, in "furnished" housing, to bring a company close together. We have had the usual growing pains associated with tech-ing and previewing a musical, but Gigi brought its own unique demands. Getting used to our beautiful 1900 Belle Epoque gowns, we tripped, slipped, fell and finally conquered our choreography. We all bumped into many doorways and people adjusting to our new perimeters of our hats, and there were several of us who began to seriously think about just how much dinner should be consumed before getting into corset-era bodices. Scenes were cut, scenes were moved, dialogue was fleshed out, dialogue was trimmed, tweaks and adjustments of every conceivable variety were implemented. Sometimes it was so quiet backstage in the dressing rooms it was almost like being in a library. I went by the men's ensemble room to make sure everyone was all right, and they assured me they were just tired. And concentrating.
Out-of-town tryouts are indeed a test of mental concentration and physical stamina. In addition to the shock of remembering which version of the scene to perform that night, there would be our ongoing technical questions. How do I walk backwards in a train, or give the illusion of gliding up and down stairs when they must be meticulously counted and remembered? How do I do this jump split in this tailcoat? How do I not spill diet ginger ale all over other cast members, the band (or the audience) during the first act finale? Then there was the backstage choreography. How fast must one run to get to the quick change in order to complete the change and go out with a tiny breath left over to speak? When the panic and thrill of surviving the first few performances wore off, the inevitable traditions began to emerge: an entr'acte pas de deux performance that takes place upstage of the show curtain, and tiny repeated gestures or good luck charms that one repeats every performance to give one a moment of reassurance that habitual rituals often bring.
Offstage, there were shot nights, sweet-tooth Saturdays and the sound of corks popping frequently, which should and does happen when you perform a show eight times a week that has a song about the "night they invented champagne." Many of us lived in the same building or close by, and there were some late-night pajama pow-wows and exchange of support, popcorn and wine. There were yoga and fitness warmups, and 18 of us took a Soul Cycle class together proving once again that the cast that sweats together stays together, but then we already knew that. I daresay that in New York, we wouldn't be able to amass that large of a group to do anything. Well, besides party.
For me the most moving thing about going out of town has been watching the interaction between our young ones and our veterans. For so long, I was either the youngest one in a company or close to it; now I find myself at the opposite side of the spectrum. Shocking. A very real exchange occurs between the generations. Between the parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts that we play and our show children. Experience and a reassuring word are traded for a timely boost of energy or an inspiring new way to look at something. And we have real life reflecting the core of the Gigi message — life goes on, and we learn from one another, and it's all as it should be.
Thank you, Washington audiences. Thank you, Kennedy Center staff for being such amazing hosts, and thanks to all our D.C. backstage crew and orchestra. Come see us in New York, s'il vous plait!
Next post: Gigi goes to Broadway!