Times have changed since the film Pretty Woman became one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time. The story’s soft-edged portrayal of the sex trade is even more problematic today than it was when the film premiered in 1990. If this concern is not a deal-breaker, the stage adaptation, Pretty Woman: The Musical, can be an enjoyable evening of theater in the North American tour now playing at the Fox Theatre.
The musical is a faithful adaption of the film, as is to be expected from a book by the movie’s director, Garry Marshall, and its screenwriter, J.F. Lawton.
The main characters are Edward Lewis and Vivian Ward. He’s a corporate raider visiting Los Angeles to complete a hostile takeover. She’s a sex worker. They meet when he gets lost in a neighborhood where the sex trade is plied. He needs more than directions because he doesn’t know how to use the manual transition in the car he borrowed. After Edward and Vivian have a saucy encounter, he pays her to drive him to his hotel.
They hit it off despite their differences, so Edward hires Vivian to be his companion for the rest of his visit. As their relationship develops, we know what they are thinking—they tell us in their songs, which have engaging music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance.
Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli give excellent performances as Edward and Vivian. They have chemistry that works in the theater. Jessica Crouch is a corker as Vivian’s sassy best friend, Kit De Luca. Kyle Taylor Parker shines as the narrator known as the Happy Man, who morphs into the very different but equally wise hotel manager, Mr. Thompson. Matthew Stocke hits the mark precisely as Edward’s unsavory lawyer, Philip Stuckey.
Jerry Mitchell’s direction and choreography fill the stage with irresistible energy. Hollywood glitz aplenty can be relished in the scenic design by David Rockwell, costumes by Gregg Barnes, lighting by Kenneth Posner and Philip S. Rosenberg, sound by John Shivers, hair by Josh Marquette, and makeup by Fiona Mifsud.
The show includes the iconic song, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” by Roy Orbison and Bill Dee. You have to wait for it, but it’s worth the wait.
—By Gerry Kowarsky
Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade