Based on one of Hollywood’s most beloved romances of all time, “Pretty Woman: The Musical” stays true to its rom-com roots in director Jerry Mitchell’s version of this modern fairytale.
“Pretty Woman” is nothing short of a feel-good, not-so-guilty pleasure. From its opening number “Welcome to Hollywood,” the production is full of high energy, snappy choreography, and costumes with just the right amount of shock value as prostitutes and party boys saunter down Hollywood Boulevard in leather jackets and ripped up fishnet stockings.
The musical tells the story of prostitute Vivian Ward (the incomparable Olivia Valli) and her agreement to spend the week pretending to be a high-class society lady for socialite Edward Lewis (Tony Award nominee Adam Pascal). The musical is narrated by Happy Man (played by Michael Dalke in this performance, although the role is usually played by Kyle Taylor Parker), the self appointed Hollywood godfather as he serves as the production’s sort of spiritual guide. With a rich, silky voice and snarky eyebrow to match, Dalke’s number “On a Night Like Tonight” is a glorious, tango-filled frenzy and perhaps one of the most entertaining parts of the production (due in part to his pairing with Trent Soyster as the adorable bellboy Giulio).
Valli shines as the quick-witted Vivan and manages to keep all of the chutzpah of Julia Roberts in the original role while still bringing her own sort of charm to the character. With an impressive belt to match her comedic timing, numbers like “Anywhere But Here” and “I Can’t Go Back” stand out as the big, powerful female anthems audiences have come to expect from their leading ladies.
Of course, this comes as no surprise, since the production’s music and lyrics are written by song-writing team Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance (“Summer of ’69,” “Heaven”). Their classic rock influence is evident throughout the score, with underlying guitar riffs and rock beats serving as the basis for most of the musical numbers. Fortunately, this seems to suit the range of Mr. Pascal quite nicely, who rose to prominence for his role as the leather wearing rocker Roger in several productions of Jonathan Larson’s “Rent.”
Thankfully, Adams and Vallance have managed to expand Edward’s character development in this musical rendition. Instead of those long pauses full of silence that Edward seems so fond of in the original film (sorry Richard Gere), Adams and Vallance have created catchy ballads that not only give Pascal ample opportunity to show off, but also help create a three dimensional character with passion and integrity, particularly during his number “You and I.”
Not to be outdone, Vivian’s best friend Kit De Luca (Jessica Crouch) is her own force of rocker chick energy and lights up the stage with an impressive sort of edgy growl that seamlessly blends with those pretty musical theater notes. As she stomps around during her number “Rodeo Drive,” she is surrounded by girls in costumes that blend rocker chic and high fashion couture, thanks to costume genius Gregg Barnes.
For better or for worse, the musical follows the movie almost exactly. Book writers Garry Marshall (who directed the original film) and J. F. Lawton have kept most of the dialogue the same (“I would’ve stayed for two thousand.” “I would have paid four.”). It’s not exactly the original content theater goers have been clamoring for, but it’s classic. There’s a reason why a movie about a snarky prostitute falling in love with a rich handsome man is still regarded as one of the most romantic films of all time. Without sacrificing any of the original charm, Valli still manages to bring a sprinkling of modern day feminist independence and honesty with her fiery performance.
While most of the dialogue and the film's best lines are all featured in the musical, longer sequences like the polo match were effectively cut down to just a few minutes each and are instead replaced with soulful, beautiful, entertaining musical numbers. Sure, the music has been criticized for being a bit simplistic, but it’s “Pretty Woman” for crying out loud. Could you imagine if they had tried to make it more grandiose than it needed to be?
“Pretty Woman: The Musical” may not be the most profound piece of theater, but not everything is. Movie fans will love how loyal it stays to the film, and everyone else will love the fun it brings to the stage. You can catch “Pretty Woman: The Musical” at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore now through April 10, 2022. Tickets can be purchased here.
Additional production photos can be found below. All photo credit to Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.