Pretty Woman: The Musical is based on the popular film from 1990 that launched Julia Roberts to superstardom and reminded people once again that Richard Gere was still alive, something that happens about every five to eight years. Does Pretty Woman: The Musical need to exist? Not really. Is it an enjoyable evening at the theater? Yes it is. There seems to be something irresistible to theater producers about adapting hit movies into stage musicals. A month ago we were treated to An Officer and a Gentleman: The Musical and next month we’ll be treated to a second stop from Waitress: The Musical. Usually, if they get a tour they have something going for them. If the first you’ve heard that they even made a musical of a movie is when it comes to town, what it’s got may not be a lot. Honestly, Pretty Woman stays so close to the film that there is not a lot of freshness to be found. But, it has a few stellar cast members and enough nostalgia going for it that you will be entertained. Not every show has to break the mold, some shows are comfort food and Pretty Woman fits that bill.
If you don’t know the story of Pretty Woman I’m going to allow you that little extra bit of enjoyment by not robbing you of that rare bit of discovery. Nor will I bore the other 98% of us with a rehash of the plot we all know from heart. Instead let’s talk about what works. Adam Pascal works and was a joyful surprise when I opened the program. I’d had a full weekend and hadn’t done my usual preshow homework so I came in blind to the cast. Rent is one of my all time favorite musicals and any time I get to see Pascal who originated the role of Roger, is a treat. His performance as Will Shakespeare in Something Rotten was a case of a role being a perfect fit, here the songs are well suited for his rock ballad voice. The songs are written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. Pascal is a good fit for Adams style and it’s during his songs as Edward, where the music works best. “You and I” which is best song in the show is a highlight for Pascal as well as some seriously impressive Operatic singing from Christian Douglas and Amma Osei. The other favorite in the cast is Kyle Taylor Parker in a duel role as Happy Man and Mr. Thompson, the hotel manager. Happy Man is a the narrator of the piece who’s comments make it clear he’s aware this is a show and there is an audience. As such he gets most of the laughs that are not from the film. As the role of Mr. Thompson he gets to perform the other great song and in this case dance number in the show “On a Night Like tonight”. Where he and his hotel staff teach Vivian how to dance without a pole or a house beat.
What doesn’t really work are most of the other songs, they are not bad, they are just unmemorable for the most part. The one performance that really didn’t work that well for me was Olivia Valli as Vivian. I haven’t revisited Pretty Woman in many years but from my memory, there was a subtlety and vulnerability to Julia Roberts performance that endeared her to the audience. Valli’s performance is about as subtle as Fran Drescher on The Nanny. It’s just too brash, it’s hard to see what Edward sees in her that melts his heart. In fairness, it’s hard to convey a subtle sense of vulnerability to the back row of the Orpheum Theatre, and perhaps the direction was to play up the street tough side of the character. For me that didn’t work, it doesn’t ruin the show, it’s just not the best choice for the character. If you are going to make a super faithful adaptation, don’t have the only thing you change from the film be the portrayal of the main character, particularly when it is that character and Julia Roberts portrayal that is almost single handedly responsible for the films classic status.
If you are a fan of the film and love musicals, you are going to have a fun night with Pretty Woman: The Musical. If you like the film but generally don’t care for musicals, this isn’t the one that’s going to win you over. For more information and to purchase tickets go to https://hennepintheatretrust.org/events/pretty-woman-the-musical-broadway-tickets-minneapolis-2022/ The show runs through Sunday February 27th.