The GiGis are the Florida Studio Theatre’s latest cabaret production. We’re talking a touring trio of female vocalists. The hits they sing cluster in the 1950s and ’60s, though the GiGis reach as far back as the Andrews Sisters and as far ahead as Adele.
They’re a quintessential American girl group — or one flavor of girl group, anyway. The GiGis’ revue is big on harmonies, not so big on Phil Specter’s wall-of-sound legacy. (All those early 1960s hits where female vocals and dense instrumentation hit you like a tsunami.) Here, the harmonized vocals always stand out. The Beach Boys are the closest male equivalents I can think of. Although nobody would call them a guy group.
No anger, no agony. The GiGis’ songs are sweet slices from the pop culture dessert menu. As an added bonus, they’re chockfull of useful advice. These tunes offer meditations on testing the strength of a relationship, (Betty Everett’s “It’s in His Kiss”), highway safety (The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack”), stress reduction (The Go-Gos’ “Vacation”), military discipline (The Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”), and stoic acceptance of life’s vicissitudes (The Shirelles’ “Mama Said”). Pianist Tom Casey gets to do a Jerry Lee Lewis imitation in a blazing rendition of “Great Balls of Fire.” All three singers get to do a Tina Turner imitation — “Proud Mary,” what else? Three Tina Turners. Imagine.
The trio responsible is actually a quintet with different line-ups for different performances. (Lauren Anselm, Brittany Cheek and Safia Hudson took the stage on the night of my review.) Three fine singers, who deliver fine harmonies. It’s a high grading curve, but Hudson stands out. Not only a great voice — she makes the rafters shake. Casey’s an excellent pop pianist; his motorcycle imitation is also first rate.
These musicians get the audience moving with sing-alongs and hand gestures. (With the exception of critics. Critics don’t do hand gestures.) A woman from New Jersey is supposedly drafted when one singer goes on a spa date. While not a show biz professional, she was not-too-shabby doing the routines from The Supremes “Stop in the Name of Love.”
The energy driving the revue is nostalgia, of course. The audience (mostly baby boomers) enjoys hearing the songs. More than that: they enjoy hearing them again — including hits that came out before they were born. Makes sense, if you think about it. The swing hits of the 1940s and early ’50s filled the dials when boomers were growing up. So, yes, most of these ears have heard “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Whether they’ve heard of Taylor Swift is another question entirely.
It’s a fun show and sweet as pie. Expect light banter and good-natured audience interaction. Don’t expect a musical history lesson, a complicated backstory of the band’s inner conflicts, a feminist subtext or, for that matter, any subtext. Sweet’s pretty much the only flavor you’ll taste.
This is musical dessert; what did you expect?