I am not one of those who believe that Pretty Woman, both the film and the musical which opened last night, paints women in a particularly bad light. Vivian, the title woman, may be a hooker, but she's a survivor, fighter, and has self-respect and dignity And, while it may be a man who changes her fortunes (monetarily), she's the one who teaches him a thing or three about life. As she says, "She saves him right back." The Broadway version of her tale definitely puts her front and center, both by way of Jerry Mitchell's direction and the thrilling performance of Samantha Barks, who also gets to give the bad guy a pretty convincing beat down. In this day and age, that may not be enough for some. And that's too bad for those who miss out on it - the show is a fun romp with some great acting, singing and dancing.
|Samantha Barks and Andy Karl|
|The Pretty Woman Company|
Jerry Mitchell does his typically reliable work here. The pacing is brisk; the transitions between scenes are polished. And the dancing is good, if not particularly trendsetting. Pretty Woman doesn't need to dance, so he smartly has used it as an accent to the whole stage picture rather than gum up the works by throwing in numbers for the sake of doing so. For better or worse, his work here never gets in the way of the story telling, but it really doesn't add much to it, either. What he's created is a good stage version of a beloved film. He doesn't tinker with it. Fans of the film will be happy (I was). Theater lovers may ask, "did this need to be a musical?" (I asked). It works as entertainment for sure - it's a fast, fun 2+ hours.
|Andy Karl, Ezra Knight, |
Samantha Barks and Robby Clater
As I mentioned earlier, the ensemble does double-duty, playing a wide range of characters: business men and pimps, hookers and Rodeo Drive salon snobs, all while singing and dancing up a storm. Then there's Tommy Bracco as the impish bell boy of the Beverly Wilshire (a role significantly increased from the film). He lights up the stage every time he's on it, and you can't help but smile. Perhaps because this version focuses on Vivian and those in her orbit, the real bad guy of the story, Edward's icky pervert lawyer, has seen his part reduced, which is too bad since the always delightful Jason Danieley plays the role. What he does is significant, but I think the big climax of the story would have had a bigger impact if his part was larger, his well-deserved beat down notwithstanding. As Edward's near takeover victims and later allies, Ezra Knight and Robby Clater are a welcome pair of do-good corporate types.
|Eric Anderson and Orfeh|
|Edward meets Vivian|
There's nothing wrong with a faithful, fun movie to musical adaptation. Do I wish there was a bit more of a difference, one where we see the story open up and do things that the stage can do that movies can't? Absolutely. But the superb cast, including more than excellent principals, makes up for the lack of originality. I'm really glad I saw it, and recommend it for taking people for whom theater isn't really their thing. They will likely love it.
(Photos by J. Kyler, M. Murphy)