A dose of Paris is hitting the Great White Way, with Gigi officially opening at the Neil Simon Theatre this week. Disney alumna Vanessa Hudgens makes her Broadway debut as the titular character, portraying a coming-of-age Parisian at the turn of the century in this classic Tony and Oscar-winning rags-to-riches musical by the same creative team as My Fair Lady. Broadway vet and Tony winner Victoria Clark plays her Mamita and up-and-comer Corey Cott plays Gigi's wealthy heir friend who turns into something more. Of course, you will hear the earworm tunes its known for, including “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” “The Night They Invented Champagne,” (they use Veuve Clicquot in the show) and “I Remember It Well.”
Before seeing the production ourselves, we caught up with Hudgens to find out just how her first Broadway experience has gone so far—and it’s fantastically, as it turns out. “I feel like a big part of who I am is Gigi,” she told us over the phone. “I feel like at the end of the day what got me into character most was just being myself. A bunch of my friends who have come to see the show have said, ‘This role is perfect for you, it’s just you. This character is you.’ That's because I feel like the spirit of Gigi has the same spirit as Vanessa: A youthfulness and a feeling of being unafraid to be who you are.”
Hudgens revealed some of the best parts of her new gig during our discussion. Scroll down to find out her favorite song, her favorite costume, and more.
On her pre-performance rituals: “I do my [voice] warm-ups and then I’ll turn on some music and do my makeup and dance around a little bit to get my energy going. I get dressed, and then go on! As for music, for a while I was listening to this band called The Hot Sardines. It’s got a big-band, pre-war feel, and a couple of French songs that felt very appropriate. Sometimes I’ll listen to Billie Holiday. Sometimes I’ll listen to Kasabian because that gets me energized, and sometimes I’ll listen to French music. It really just depends on what I’m feeling that day. It just makes me stay present.”
On her favorite song of the show: “I love singing ‘I Never Want to Go Home Again’ because it’s such a fun number where I get to do a bit of ballet and running around. It’s a workout to say the least, but it’s just a very free-spirited song.” (Watch a clip of her performing the number on LIVE With Kelly and Michael below.)
On seeing a live audience night after night: “It’s so incredible being in a Broadway theater performing for a Broadway audience. They’re just so engaged, its just such a thrill having their energy there to feed you.”
On her gorgeous outfits, by costume designer Catherine Zuber: “All of the costumes are stunning. My favorite is this beautiful lilac and fuchsia gown that has sequins and a high neck and a tight waist. There are a couple of sequins on it and a little bow; it’s just so elegant and somehow slightly modern. Then, there is a white one that has Swarovski crystals on it. The white material came from Italy, the same place that Oscar de la Renta got his fabric from. I fell in love with it from the moment that I saw it. It’s so beautiful.”
On learning about herself through this process: “Even though I always see myself as an extremely carefree, go-with-the-flow person, I’ve learned that we all have expectations, and sometimes you have to let expectations go in order to be present in the moment that is in front of you. You can plan things out and want things to go a certain way and they don’t go that certain way, it’s like you just have to let it go and stay present, rather than dwell on something, because you always want to do your best.”
On working under the pressures of live theater: “It can be taxing and stressful because you’re getting changes last minute and you want it to go right because you’ve been working hard on it, and something slips. It would be easy to get upset with yourself, but that’s just detrimental to your well-being, I think. I just have to re-remind myself to just let it go.”
On what she hopes you'll take away from the show: “I love its message that you make your own decisions in life. I hope people understand that you can not let others tell you how to live your life. If you have a plan and a vision for yourself, go after it. It doesn’t matter what people say or want from you, you’re the only person that lives your life, so you have to make it count. Just remembering to make yourself happy.”
Gigi officially opens this week. Tickets are available on ticketmaster.com.