Colette Makes a Comeback

A trip to the theatre last week made me realize how much I appreciate French women, French women writers, in particular.
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A trip to the theatre last week made me realize how much I appreciate French women, French women writers, in particular.

The Kennedy Center debuted a new production of "Gigi" starring the ever-nubile Vanessa Hudgens in the title role of a "jeune fille" in Paris learning the art of love and seduction, holy sacraments to the French.

I loved the show's colorful bravado, made possible by a $12 million production budget. The costumes, set design, and flourishes (bubbles falling from the ceiling) certainly do this classic justice, and it was especially heartening to see "Gigi" introduced to a new, Gen-Y audience.

My primary motivation for seeing the show is my enduring fondness for Colette, the famed French author who penned the novella on which the musical is based.

She is the real star, but, alas, her name went conspicuously missing from my program, something I hope is corrected by the time the show hits Broadway.

(When I inquired, a rep from the Kennedy Center explained that Colette's omission was simply an oversight.)

Colette could serve as a role model for women today, especially those who desperately search in vain for love and passion.

Colette never wanted for either. Love and passion always found Colette.

Like all the French women I admire, Colette defied convention with a jaunty nonchalance, but embraced her innate femininity and sex appeal.

In Belle Epoque France, she performed at the Moulin Rouge (yes, that one) where she caused a riot when she kissed another woman (her lover at the time) onstage.

Colette had numerous affairs with women and men, including the stepson of her second husband, and was a long-time friend of Jean Cocteau.

After World War I, she published "Cheri," about an aging courtesan and her young paramour, which cemented her literary, if not scandalous, reputation.

"Gigi" followed in 1944, becoming an instant bestseller, heralded for its charm and glamour. Colette sprinkled her glamour dust on a then unknown-actress named Audrey Hepburn, whom she discovered gliding through a hotel lobby.

"There's my Gigi, "she reportedly said, casting Hepburn, in all her gamine glory, in the first theatrical version of her book in 1951.

In 1958, Leslie Caron, Vincente Minnelli, and Louis Jourdan brought "Gigi" to the silver screen with the evergreen classics like "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and "The Night They Invented Champagne," composed by the genius duo Lerner and Loewe.

So here we are in 2015, and another version of "Gigi" is among the masses. I hope Hudgens somehow inspires the "High School Musical" set to pick up a copy of "Gigi," and rediscover the charm and soft erudition of Colette, her work, and her life.

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