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It’s taken a few years, but Vanessa Hudgens has finally made the leap from “High School Musical” to a Broadway musical.
The actress-singer will star in a Broadway-bound revival of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe’s musical “Gigi” that first debuts in Washington, D.C. early next year. She’s already jumped into twice-a-day vocal exercises and memorizing her lines.
“I think, as an actor, the ultimate dream is to be on Broadway. I think it’s the true test. There are no second takes. You’ve got to bring everything you’ve got for the most critical of audiences,” she said by phone Wednesday. “It’s an honor, if anything. I’m over the moon.”
“Gigi,” set in Paris at the turn of the last century, comes from the same composer and lyricist as “My Fair Lady.” It centers on a teenage girl being groomed to serve as a companion to a bored, wealthy playboy until the pair realize they have fallen in love.
Hudgens was familiar with the show and some of the music. “My mom’s name is Gina, her nickname’s been Gigi. We have a dog named Gigi. Gigi is very prevalent in our lives,” she says, laughing.
The original novel by Colette began as a play starring Audrey Hepburn in 1951 and then became a movie musical starring Leslie Caron. A stage musical was made in 1973 starring Karin Wolfe but lasted only about 100 performances.
“Gigi” features the memorable tunes “Thank Heaven For Little Girls,” ”I Remember It Well” and “The Night They Invented Champagne,” which Hudgens called “an absolutely electric musical number.” The score also includes a few songs added to the score in 1973, including “Paris is Paris Again” and “I Never Want to Go Home Again.”
Hudgens, 25, who made her feature film debut in Catherine Hardwicke’s “Thirteen,” is best known for playing Gabriella, the love interest of Zac Efron’s Troy, in Disney’s “High School Musical” movies. Recent screen credits include “Bandslam” and “Spring Breakers.” Hudgens has put out two albums, including 2008′s “Identified.”
She grew up doing musical theater and says that’s “what brought me out of my shell. So being onstage is something I feel very comforting.” She starred as Mimi in “Rent” at the Hollywood Bowl in 2010.
Playwright Heidi Thomas, who wrote the PBS/BBC hit “Call the Midwife,” is reimagining the new production of “Gigi.” Her TV credits include a “Madame Bovary” that starred Frances O’Connor and a revival of the classic British TV series “Upstairs, Downstairs” from 2010 to 2012. Her plays include “Shamrocks and Crocodiles,” “Some Singing Blood” and “The House of Special Purpose.”
The new musical will be seen at the Kennedy Center from Jan. 16-Feb. 12 and then move to Broadway. The exact dates in New York and rest of the cast will be announced at a later date.
The director will be Eric Schaeffer who staged the recent revival of “Follies” and “Million Dollar Quartet.” Choreography will be done by Joshua Bergasse, who is choreographing the “On the Town” revival this season.
One skill that Hudgens still has to master for the show is to Rollerblade. That’s necessary because her Gigi will be seen ice skating. “I have to get on that, stat.” The actress’ enthusiasm for her new adventure is clear.
“I’ve never been so ecstatic about a project before,” she said. “I genuinely feel like a child, beaming from ear-to-ear, being taken to Disneyland for the first time. It’s something that I actually feel I was born to do.”