I’ve been reliably informed that if I had seen the movie, I would most likely have remembered it – for good or for ill. But seeing a show ‘blind’ without exposure to its previous motion picture incarnation has its plus points, most notably not having any preconceptions or notions as to what to expect. That said, the storyline as presented in Pretty Woman The Musical is not without its challenges, though I suspect Vivian Ward (Aimie Atkinson) has been given rather more power and influence than Julia Roberts’ Vivian did thirty years ago.
But if ‘love is love’, then – at the risk of giving too much away – then assault is assault, whoever does it to whom. There’s a catchy opening number, ‘Welcome To Hollywood’, and an equally catching closing number, ‘Together Forever’, and in between, some songs are more memorable than others: one or two, I regret to report, are almost surplus to requirements. There isn’t anything that sounds terrible but there are times when the advancing of the plot is put on hold for a song and dance – and if you’re okay with that, which a fair number of people I’ve come across over the years who attend musicals are, there’s much to be enjoyed.
Even so, a couple of songs are very repetitive, even by musical theatre standards, and the pop/rock style instrumentals accompanying a section of opera were rather jarring. The creatives couldn’t quite fit Roy Orbison’s 1964 song ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ into the story proper, so it’s tacked on during the curtain call in much the same way ‘Waterloo’ is tacked on to the curtain call over at Mamma Mia!.
The comparison is made in the show between Vivian’s possible life trajectory and that of Cinderella – though even that old story focuses more on ‘good’ triumphing over ‘evil’ than a borderline obsessive pursuit of money. Vivian’s love interest, Edward Lewis (Danny Mac) is a ‘corporate raider’ with enough disposable income not only to live comfortably but to (figuratively speaking) throw money at any pretty woman (geddit?) he wishes to pursue.
In the various conversations I had with fellow theatregoers before the show, at the interval and on the Tube home, the #MeToo movement was mentioned repeatedly, presumably as a result of certain events in the movie now being looked at through contemporary lenses. I didn’t detect anything in this stage show adaptation that would fall under sexual abuse, though there’s no doubting that this remains a tale about some guy who comes along like a knight in shining armour and whisks a young lady away from her current circumstances, providing her with a better life – at least materially – than the one she had before. To misquote the 1980s Eurythmics song, sisters aren’t doing it for themselves.
Rachael Wooding’s Kit de Luca has a remarkable belt, and almost steals the show whenever she’s given the chance to shine. Giulio (Alex Charles), the general assistant in the hotel where Edward is staying, has remarkable stage presence. The production invests more, rightly or wrongly, in ‘Happy Man’ (Bob Harms, who also doubles up as hotel manager Barney Thompson), whose direct engagements with the audience make him come across as one of those warm-up jesters at a television recording.
Jerry Mitchell’s choreography has his usual ‘full out’ (his choice of words) style stamped all over it, and I am reliably informed the musical more or less follows the movie’s storyline, and in the same order. The cast go above and beyond in the show, palpably working hard. Atkinson and Mac in the leading roles have some notable chemistry between them on stage. While some missed opportunities may have arisen to update the narrative for today’s audiences, this is (just about) a largely upbeat production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
One of Hollywood’s most beloved romantic stories of all time is now coming to the West End! Pretty Woman: The Musical features direction and choreography by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde, Hairspray), an original score by Grammy® winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance (‘Summer of ’69’, ‘Heaven’) and a book by the movie’s legendary director Garry Marshall and screenwriter J.F. Lawton.
Aimie Atkinson (Six, In the Heights) will play Vivian Ward and Danny Mac (White Christmas, Sunset Boulevard) will play Edward Lewis in the smash hit PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL.
Pretty Woman: The Musical