In 1990, Richard Gere and Julia Roberts brought the roles of Edward Lewis and Vivian Ward to the big screen in a film that would become a famous and classic romantic comedy. Now, 28 years later, Steve Kazee and Samantha Barks bring the roles to the stage in a world premiere musical that adds charming and stunning life to the original love story, led by two-time Tony Award Winner Director and Choreographer Jerry Mitchell.
Pretty Woman at Broadway in Chicago
With book by Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton and music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, Pretty Woman follows the same plot line as the original film. Set in Los Angeles, California, Edward Lewis (played Steve Kazee with stunning vocals), a high-powered businessman, finds himself lost in Bevery Hills where he meets a prostitute, Vivian Ward (played by the brilliantly comedic Samantha Barks with a gorgeous vibrato). Enchanted by her beauty and charm, Edward enlists her to act as his “beck and call girl” for his week-long business trip. Vivian suddenly finds herself ripped from the life she knows and transplanted into a world of glamour and wealth at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, leaving her with the question of how she could ever return to her old life after the one-week deal is up.
As with any romantic comedy, what begins as a simple business transaction transforms into a love story, and the pair must overcome their own inner obstacles if they want to find that classic happy ending. Mitchell’s production certainly leans into the magical romance, complete with his choreography and a leading duo that carries a beautiful stage chemistry for which it is impossible not to want to see succeed.
Stellar and Familiar Adaptation
Marshall and Lawton’s book is spot-on, and even carries over much of the original dialogue from the film. The die-hard fans will recognize many of the jokes and amusing plot points – such as the sarcastic hotel concierge Mr. Thompson, which Eric Anderson brings to new life with a perfect sense of comedic timing and smooth jazz voice with numbers like “On a Night Like Tonight.” There is also Vivian’s best friend Kit DeLuca, a role Orfeh assumes with ease, and of course tops off with belt that left the opening night audience cheering after numbers like “Rodeo Drive” and “Never Give Up On a Dream.”
Even elements of the design will look familiar. It is hard to forget Julia Roberts’ blonde wig with the red blazer and short-blue mini skirt from the film, and Costume Designer Gregg Barnes brings that choice right into the opening moments of the musical as Barks shimmies down the fire escape in an attempt to avoid her landlord’s request for rent.
Mitchell manages to include iconic images from the original film but with his own creative spin. One perfect example is when Vivian catches Edward in the dead of night playing the piano because he is unable to sleep. In the film, Edward lifts Vivian on to the piano and they share an intimate moment, which Mitchell replicates in the musical. However, rather than simply bringing down the lights, Mitchell adds another level of beauty. Mitchell, with the help of Lighting Designers Kenneth Posner and Philip S. Rosenberg, cleverly plays with silhouettes throughout the production in his choreography, and he utilizes that tactic in this scene. As Kazee and Barks move closer, the lights dim, and while the couple is backlit with deep purple, the actors can only be seen in a dark, silhouette form. The result is stunning, and allows for the team to hint at the intimacy of the moment without staging it explicitly, thus playing into the overall charm and sweet romance of the production.
Original Musical Score
The overall production elements add to the fun and spectacular nature of the piece. The lyrics in some areas are stronger than others; however, when everything does work and is in sync, the impact is incredible, and allows for some beautiful moments to take the stage.
One example takes place towards the beginning, immediately after Vivian accepts the one-week deal from Edward, and Barks and Orfeh as Vivian and Kit share the duet “Look at Me Now,” which depicts Vivian’s excitement over this apparent dream come true. The duet is unbelievably fun, and the power of the two vocalists rings throughout the theater.
“You and I” is another fantastic example of every element working together to create a stunning stage picture – both aesthetically and lyrically. The scene takes place when Edward takes Vivian to the opera, and while she is entranced by the performance on stage, he cannot take his eyes off her. Kazee’s vocal quality is simply gorgeous, and he fills the solo with a lovely sense of emotional honesty. Mitchell, with the aid of Scenic Designer David Rockwell, places the couple in box seats that are on a higher level so that the opera performance can take place below, allowing for the lighting to dim and the audience to witness Edward become lost in his own world.
Full of charming romance and clever reminders of the classic film, Pretty Woman The Musical makes for a lovely night of fun. This reviewer is curious to see how the production continues to grow in its Broadway Trial.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theater in Chicago
Playing through April 15, 2018
Tuesdays at 7:30pm
Wednesdays at 7:30pm
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 2:00pm and 8:00pm
Sundays at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
Run Time: 2 hours and 35 minutes, with intermission
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Lauren Katz.