Mais oui! Vanessa Hudgens makes debut on Broadway as Gigi

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Nearly 50 years after Leslie Caron captured hearts in the film Gigi, actress Vanessa Hudgens is tackling the role in her Broadway debut in a more modern musical version of the French story.

The revival of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical based on the character in French writer Colette's 1944 novella of the same name opened at the Neil Simon Theatre on Wednesday night.

Caron played the young girl being groomed to become a courtesan in 1900 Paris in the 1958 film. It won nine Oscars, including best picture and best director for Vincente Minnelli.

But the musical, retooled to reflect more modern sensibilities, failed to impress critics, with the New York Times describing it as being "scrubbed of anything even remotely naughty or distasteful."

"Gidget goes Parisian in Gigi," the Daily News said in a headline.

Hudgens, the 26-year-old former Disney star who gained fame as the studious good girl in the High School Musical films, blossoms from a naive schoolgirl into a beautiful young woman under the tutelage of her grandmother and aunt, in the role played by Audrey Hepburn in the 1951 stage play.

"Her characterisation comes to life when Gigi pours her heart into her throat," said the New York Times.

"But in between songs Ms Hudgens' performance flattens into two dimensions, at most."

The newspaper added that although she does not lack energy, her performance was emotionally vacant.

The Daily News agreed, saying it was a "perky but ooh-la-la-less Broadway debut."

But USA Today said she "does perky and elegant with equal poise."

In the revival, Gigi is 18, not 15, and her rich suitor and future husband Gaston Lachaille (Corey Cott) is younger, closing the age gap between the two.

The signature song, Thank Heaven For Little Girls, which was made famous by an elderly French actor Maurice Chevalier in the film, is now sung by Gigi's grandmother and aunt.

The Hollywood Reporter found both Hudgens and Cott capable in their roles but said they never came alive with any passion.

Although some critics found the latest version lacking, the New York Post newspaper said it was more "in line with modern ideas about women and romance".

"This honourable Gigi may be a good pick if you can't get into Wicked on Take Your Daughter to the Theatre Day," it said, referring to the hit Broadway musical.