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Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012

Thank Heavens for Off the Wall

‘Gigi’ sparkles in a small space

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Gigi is one of those old-fashioned storylines that hearkens back to a time when life was all about class systems and love was all about moving between them (preferably upward). Boy (Gaston) knows girl (Gigi). Boy starts to unknowingly fall in love with girl. Boy loses girl. Girl then decides boy is best after all.

Off The Wall Theatre’s current production places the setting in 1901 Paris at the height of Parisian high society. Gaston is a high profile member, who tosses off pretty women like a glass of champagne. Gigi, however, is the tomboyish teenager he has come to know over the years and who is now old enough to learn proper “social skills.”

One of the charms of this musical is the score by the well-known composing team of Lerner and Loewe, which gave us memorable tunes like the classic “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” Given the challenges of its tight space and a substantial cast, OTW manages to, once again, maximize the theater while reminding us that love can triumph over opinions of others.

The lead members of the cast work well for the most part. In particular, OTW cornerstones Karl Miller, as Gaston’s uncle, Jeremy C. Welter, as the snobbish lovelorn nephew and Marilyn White as Gigi’s grandmother, who becomes the role rather than reminds us of who’s acting it. Sharon Nieman-Koebert does a fine job as the fading Grande dame, a wonderful counterbalance to White’s middle-class Mamacita.

In the title role, Liz Mistele brings a feisty, exuberant independence to Gigi, completing the circle of love that, in Gigi’s case, the woman chooses the man. Eventually.

Gigi
runs through Dec. 31 at Off the Wall Theatre, 127 E. Wells St. For more information, call 414-327-3552 or visit offthewalltheatre.com.