We all want the fairy tale. Millions of people enter the National Lottery every week in the hope of achieving their own happily ever after. However, fairy tales do not come true in real life, do they? Unlikely, but there is no harm in hoping. And for a story where magic happens, you can do a lot worse than pop to the Piccadilly Theatre where Pretty Woman has taken up residence.
On Hollywood Boulevard, everyone has a dream, and tonight Vivian Ward (Aimie Atkinson) and her roommate Kit de Luca (Rachel Wooding) are starting their work. The two girls are down at heel prostitutes, hoping to make enough tonight to cover the rent. Things are not looking great until a badly driven Lotus pulls up and out steps a man in a hand-tailored suit. At Kit’s insistence, Vivian approaches him and learns that he is lost and trying to find the hotel where he is staying. They talk and Edward (Danny Mac) explains that he is in town on business and the car belongs to his lawyer Philip Stuckey (Neil McDermott). Edward feels a bit of a stirring towards Vivian and the two negotiate a price, then Vivian takes the wheel to drive Edward back to the hotel where she will be going in, under the watchful eye of Manager Bernard Thompson (Bob Harms). As Vivian and Edward get to know each other more, an idea strikes the businessman and he offers Vivian a deal that provides him with an NSA companion during his time in Hollywood and will give Vivian money and a taste of ‘the dream’.
Based on the movie of the same name, with music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, and a book by Garry Marshall (movie director) and J. F. Lawton (movie writer). So, Pretty Woman has an impressive creative team that have done a first-rate job of bringing the original, much-loved 1990 film to the stage. One of the complaints about the stage show is that it has not been updated and it is still a tale of a rich man procuring a woman for his pleasure. Personally, I think it is fine that the team has not updated it. Pretty Woman was set in 1990 and reflects the attitudes at the time. As for updating, why would you? Fagin has not been updated to be a social worker looking after lost children in Oliver; Rose does not push Louise into working in a shop in Gypsy and Charity does not get out of her sleazy job in Sweet Charity.
There are some changes to the original film though. I love the increased roles of Mr Thompson and Kit de Luca. And both Bob Harms and Rachael Wooding really play these brilliantly. In fact, they are only eclipsed by the performance of the two leads – Atkinson and Mac – who are perfect in their roles as Vivian and Edward respectively. There is real chemistry between the two and both individually and together deliver truly outstanding performances. I have been listening to the original Broadway cast recording while writing this and I really believe Atkinson and Mac, along with everyone else, sound better than their cousins from across the pond. Speaking of the cast, I am also going to mention Alex Charles as Giulio who is a lovely performer, with a real ability to connect with the audience, as well as being a superb dancer.
David Rockwell’s set and Tom Rogers’ costumes really bring both the upper crust and seedy sides of 1990s Hollywood to life. There are some fashions I remember so well, and some I hoped to never see again. We also have to mention Josh Marquette’s hair designs, where big, blonde and highlighted are the order of the day.
Director/Choreographer Jerry Mitchell uses the 21-strong cast well though if I am honest, I did feel that some aspects of the choreography – particularly during ‘Welcome to Hollywood’ were not as good as I was expecting. There are some elements to the production – such as the chap getting out of the pool for no real reason – that feel like the producers are simply pandering to their ‘target’ audience. Nevertheless, the majority of the show is great and there are moments of sheer joy that remind you how amazing the film – credited for bringing life back into the rom-com genre – really was. My favourite scene in the show was at the opera, which, thanks to every element being perfect, nearly brought me to tears.
So that’s it. I really enjoyed Pretty Woman. It is not perfect but it is a real crowd-pleaser. If you still want a deep and meaningful story then consider these two things. First, Vivian is offered everything by Edward but insists that if anything happens it is on her terms. And second, by the end, has the Prince saved Cinderella or has Cinderella saved the prince or have they both saved each other? You decide.
Just remember, in the words of the Happy Man “Always time to dream, so keep on dreaming”.
Review by Terry Eastham
One of Hollywood’s most beloved romantic stories of all time is now coming to the West End! Pretty Woman: The Musical features direction and choreography by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde, Hairspray), an original score by Grammy® winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance (‘Summer of ’69’, ‘Heaven’) and a book by the movie’s legendary director Garry Marshall and screenwriter J.F. Lawton.
Aimie Atkinson (Six, In the Heights) will play Vivian Ward and Danny Mac (White Christmas, Sunset Boulevard) will play Edward Lewis in the smash hit PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL.
Pretty Woman: The Musical
16 Denman Street London W1D 7DY