Another hit show debuts in Chicago

Terrific songs, cast and staging should take ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ all the way to Broadway


If you loved the 1990 romantic comedy movie starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, directed and choreographed by Garry Marshall, you won’t be disappointed in the show turned into a musical. Pretty Woman: the Musical opened its world premiere at Broadway in Chicago’s Oriental Theatre, March 28, complete with red carpet, flashing lights and New York and LA industry VIPS.

But it was the magic on stage wrought by Samantha Barks as Vivian, a Hollywood Blvd. upwardly-mobile-dreaming prostitute who knows cars, Steve Kazee as Edward, a heartless take-over mogul, Orfeh as Vivian’s friend Kit and Eric Anderson as Mr. Thompson the friendly hotel manager of  the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel (also plays Happy Man, a Hollywood Blvd. denizen) that captured the audience’s attention and got a well-deserved standing ovation.

Samantha Barks (Vivian) and Steve Kazee (Edward) and Company in Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018
Samantha Barks (Vivian) and Steve Kazee (Edward) and Company in Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago
Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018

Directed by Jerry Mitchell, the musical moves seamlessly through memorable film scenes from bathtub singing to Rodeo Drive shopping.

Blessed with a book by Garry Marshall and the movie’s screenwriter, J. F. Lawton, it closely follows the film, aping similar although not always the same lines.

Of course Pretty Woman is hyped as a Cinderella-style, feel-good story about two people whose lives change for the better because they meet. However, more than 25 years after the movie appeared in 1990, the current generation of females are more likely to appreciate Vivian’s last words to Edward.

When he shows up in her neighborhood as the “white knight” she used to dream of rescuing her, she retorts to his rescue announcement with “She rescues him right back.”

Aside from the fine cast, the musical’s strength lies in the music and lyrics written by Grammy Award winner Bryan Adams and writing partner Jim Vallance. Ranging from a hip-hop style beat and pop to ballads and tango dance rhythms, they perfectly express the characters’ moods and desires.

The songs are so good that we will likely be hearing some of them, such as “This Is My Life” (Vivian), “You and I” (Edward), “Long Way Home” (Vivian and Edward) and “Never Give Up On A Dream” (Happy Man, Kit and Company), picked up by other artists after the Broadway opening.

Speaking of songs a word has to be said about Orfeh who plays Kit. A TONY and other awards nominee for Paulette in “Legally Blonde,” her Ethel Merman voice and personality made her stand out, even in the company of a show loaded with talent.

Part of the fun of watching a film-based show that is now a musical was how the variety of dance moves that Mitchell adopted from different eras were well adapted to the story plot.

Another plus was that scenic designer David Rockwell’s simple architectural elements set the right elegant tone for the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel and its penthouse suite without being too busy and contrasted nicely with the musical’s other lifestyle, the busy, attention-grabbing signs of Hollywood Boulevard’s Red Light District.

It is likely that costume designer Gregg Barnes had fun with the clothing worn in a Polo Club scene somewhat reminiscent of “My Fair Lady’s” Ascot scene.

Maybe, opening night had something to do with the atmosphere, but there was feeling watching the musical play out that the people in the audience and on stage were having a very good time.

DETAILS: ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ is at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago, now through April 15, 2018. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes. For tickets and other information call (800) 775-2000 and visit Broadway in Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


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