Theater Review: PRETTY WOMAN, THE MUSICAL (National Tour)

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by Dan Zeff on December 15, 2021

in Theater-Chicago

Pretty Woman: The Musical is an adaption of the 1990 motion picture that made a star of Julia Roberts as Vivian, a Hollywood prostitute who wants out of her life on the streets. Providentially, and illogically, Vivian meets starchy unmarried billionaire business man Edward Lewis and turns his cold heart to love in time for the final curtain. The musical stage does not lack for sympathetic prostitutes as heroines (see “Irma La Douce” and “Sweet Charity”) and this one breaks no new territory as Vivian and Edward meet, and after the customary bumps in the romantic road, find love and purpose in their lives.

 The Company

The show opened on Broadway to mixed reviews in 2018 and is now installed at the CIBC Theatre for a puzzlingly brief one week run to open its North American Tour. Pretty Woman has a strong chick-lit flavor and the opening night crowd was clustered with groups of applauding young women, suggesting there may a considerable audience for this product.

Olivia Valli, Adam Pascal, and Matthew Stocke

The musical was composed by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, with a book by the late Gary Marshall and J. F. Lawton. Jerry Mitchell is the director and choreographer. The team has created some decent songs and energetic dances and a book that starts tediously but ends on the uptick with Vivian and Edward putting a wrap on their fairy tale romance. There are attempts at humor that fall flat visually and verbally, notably the repeated appearance of a hotel bellhop who will do anything for an easy laugh.

Jessica Crouch and Olivia Valli

The production runs about 2 & 1/2 hours, much of it devoted to song and dance numbers that displace stage time better devoted to fleshing out the relationship between Vivian and Edward. Over all, it will mostly please an audience with a high tolerance for clichéd love stories.

Kyle Taylor Parker

But there are high spots, many of them contributed by Kyle Taylor Parker as a hip Hollywood tour guide and the suave manager of a chic Hollywood hotel. It’s a great audience role and Parker sells his singing, dancing, and speaking opportunities with great relish, justifiably rewarded with repeatedly loud customer applause. Jessica Crouch is a scene stealer as Kit De Luca, Vivian’s companion in the street walker trade, her brassy persona and blast furnace voice dominating her appearances with Olivia Valli’s less forceful Vivian.

Amma Osei and The Company

Valli has a good voice, though not a powerful one. She dances well and shows some three-dimensional acting chops, especially toward the end of the show when Vivian faces some hard choices in her relationship with Edward and what she should do with her life. But the role needs star presence lacking in Valli’s performance. On the other hand Adam Pascal is a first rate Edward, credible first as a cold-blooded businessman with deep insecurities and then gradually loosening up, to his own surprise, as his feelings for Vivian expand. Edward becomes the pivotal character in the production, but the show to really work should belong more to Vivian.

Kelsee Sweigard, Olivia Valli, and Becca Suskauer

A high percentage of the opening night female audience either were not yet born or were infants when the movie became a hit, so nostalgia may not work in favor of the revival. Still, the singing and dancing should earn general approval, especially when Parker, Crouch, and Pascal are center stage. The technical credits are OK, led by the stomping musical accompaniment performed by a six piece electrified pit band. Roy Orbison and Bill Dee’s August 1964 song “Oh Pretty Woman” — which inspired the film — became a hit all over again in the 1990s, yet it isn’t part of the musical’s score — only injected during the curtain call. Over all, the show is a competently staged but non essential. That may be faint praise perhaps, but praise never the less.

 The Company

photos by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Olivia Valli and Adam Pascal

Pretty Woman the Musical
national tour
reviewed at CIBC Theatre, 18 West Monroe St (Broadway in Chicago)
Thurs & Fri at 7:30; Sat at 2 &8; Sun at 2 thru December 19, 2021
tour continues: for tickets, dates and cities, visit Pretty Woman

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