REVIEW: ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical ’ is Nostalgic, Romantic Fun

Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli in “Pretty Woman: The Musical”

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

In the second of a record four movie-to-musical adaptations in this season’s Broadway offerings at the Peace Center, Pretty Woman: The Musical is a sure-fire bet for those die-hard, Hallmark movie channel theatregoers and just in time for Valentine’s Day. And if you love the movie, you will love the musical the iconic red dress, jewelry, polo match, the opera, and all!

Based on the 1990 hit film with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts which still reigns today as the most successful romantic comedy of all time, the stage adaptation stays true to the original Cinderella fairy tale concept about a millionaire plucking a beautiful prostitute off the streets of Hollywood, and ultimately into his arms.

With a book by the late Garry Marshall and screenwriter J.F. Lawton and music & lyrics by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams and longtime collaborator Jim Vallance, Pretty Woman: The Musical is not an update (it’s still set in the 1980s) and borrows much dialogue from the original script like “I’m a sure thing!” Most of it works while some gags don’t land so freshly. But the show is much more entertaining than one would surmise from the New York reviews.

Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (Tony winner for his choreography in Kinky Boots and the 2004 La Cage Aux Folles), the proceedings begin with the vibrant number “Welcome to Hollywood” as the homeless Happy Man (the dazzling Kyle Taylor Parker whom Peace Center audiences may recall as Lola in Kinky Boots a few years back) and the down-and-out denizens of Hollywood dance along the Walk of Fame.

Broadway legend Adam Pascal (Aida, Rent, Something Rotten) embodies the role of wealthy investor Edward Lewis, while rising star Olivia Valli is call girl Vivian Ward (yes in a short blonde wig and knee-high boots). Valli is none other than the granddaughter of Frank Valli and even portrayed her own grandmother Mary Delgado in Jersey Boys.

Valli’s Vivian has more of an edge than Roberts and proves herself as a triple threat in the solemn “Anywhere but Here” lamenting her situation as the landlord threatens eviction, and “I Can’t Go Back” when she realizes she has fallen for Edward. Pascal is reserved and debonair, and delivers his solos with a husky Bryan Adams style bravado. And what gorgeous vocal blending when these unite in their too-few duets including “Long Way Home” and “You’re Beautiful.”

Kyle Taylor Parker – an audience favorite – cleverly morphs into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel manager who looks out for Vivian, orchestrates her designer makeover, and teaches her to dance (“On A Night Like Tonight”).

Jessica Crouch from the Broadway cast plays Vivian’s street-wise hooker roommate Kit (Laura San Giacomo in the film) and is a bonafide standout in this production with a tough exterior and stellar powerhouse voice.

Hats off as well to the agile comedian Matthew Vincent Taylor as the nimble bellhop and Amma Osei as Violetta and Christian Douglas as Alfredo in Verdi’s “Dammi to Forza, O Cielo” from La Traviata in the opera house scene. And to Matthew Stocke (in the only non-singing role) as Philip Stuckey, the misogynist prick lawyer.

One note, this is NOT a G-rated show: Act one features two very sexually suggestive situations, while the second half provides the gentler, romantic fodder.

Pretty Woman continues through February 13 at the Peace Center, 300 South Main St. in Greenville. Tickets are available now at peacecenter.org or by calling (864) 467-3000.

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