Pretty Woman: The Musical

“I have regrets
But I can’t change the past.
I want the real thing is that to much to ask?
For the first time in my life
It gets to be my choice.
I feel i’ve found myself yeah I found my voice.
I can’t go back.” ~ I Can’t Go Back

Pretty Woman: The Movie

Pretty Woman was the Rom Com of my childhood. Premiering in 1990, it jump started the career of Julia Roberts and told the romanticized story of a prostitute on the wrong side of the tracks catching the eye of a rich financier, eventually falling in love, and the two riding off into the sunset. It was a feel good Cinderella story, that movie goers everywhere swarmed to in droves.

Ironically, it wasn’t suppose to be. While a movie about a prostitute wouldn’t scandalize anyone in today’s Fifty Shades Era, back in the nineties where everyone had a white picket fence, attended church on Sundays, and read books with Fabio on the cover covertly, this “Love story” pushed the envelope and it was meant too.

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In a time when sexual harassment and gender revolution had no name, the movie was designed to highlight the harassment, prejudice, and struggles that prostitutes (and women as a whole) in the late eighties and nineties dealt with every day as they worked Hollywood Boulevard. It was suppose to be an anthem, a pre-Me To movement on sexuality, gender equality, and societal standards and stereotypes.

While it was, producers ended up cutting and sanitizing the more controversial topics turning it into more of a romantic underdog story. It was still boundary pushing for its day, people fell in love with Julia Robert’s and the rich egotistical financier that was Richard Gere’s character. It became a cult classic and now almost thirty years later it has made its way to the Great White Way.

Pretty Woman: The Musical

The Broadway version stays true to the movie’s plot, and if anything drives the more grittier aspects of the film’s elements home. The opening number, “Welcome to Hollywood,” does not shy away from the murder of the prostitute seamlessly going back and forth between hardened reality, while still infusing the show with comedy. In fact, many of the lines that made the movie so popular are used through out the show paying homage to its predecessor. That isn’t to say this musical can not stand on its own merit, it very much does in many ways making it more enjoyable then the movie.

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Despite Vivian’s (played by the incredibly talented Samantha Barks) profession and financial woes, she isn’t someone who wallows in her struggles. She is upbeat, and while in some ways she is naive, there is also a strength and a grit to her that highlights the complexity of the situation. Samantha Bark’s portrayal is incredibly complex and multifaceted. She flips between emotions in such a way that is at once authentic, vulnerable, and endearing to the audience. You can’t help but fall in love with Samantha Bark’s Vivian.

I found Edward more appealing in this Broadway version. I had always thought he was a bit of an ass in the movie, (Sorry Richard Gere) but Andy Karl brought a likability to his Broadway character that made you understand his personality and empathize more with the internal struggles he goes through. Perhaps it is because it IS the draw of a live performance, but unlike the film, he wasn’t an unemotional robot. His feelings for Vivian were especially felt with the song “You and I” which was one of the more emotional ballads.

Despite the angst of the relationship, and at times dark themes, this show is filled with a lightheartedness that kept the audience laughing through out. Orfeh’s sassy portrayal of Kit, made her much more sympathetic then her movie counter part, combined with her vocal talent, you could not get enough of her. The incredibly talented Eric Anderson who played the dual role of the Happy Man and narrates the story, as well as also portraying the straight laced, yet still compassionate Mr.Thompson infused humor and wit through out the show.

Music

Based in the eighties and nineties it was the perfect fit to have Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance do the music and lyrics for the show. I have always been a huge fan of Bryan Adams, and his music did not disappoint. Bridging the gap of ballads and soft rock the music flowed with in the show and the tunes were at once catchy as well as soulful. Many of the songs, could even be played on the radio, they were that versatile.

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The music played to the casts strengths and the songs especially showcased Bark’s incredible vocal talent and range, at once belting out, but also channeling that Broadway voice. “I Can’t Go Back” is one such anthem, a catchy, yet poignant song, Bark’s hit and held notes that sent chills up and down my spine. About finally discovering and realizing that YOU are in charge of your own story, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be Cinderella-esque, it is a song that is completely relatable and I am excited for it to be released. (Pre-orders start August 9 for the cast recording)

Big Mistake to miss it. Big. Huge!

Despite the fact that the themes could be considered heavy, it is a show that allows escapism. Even the love scenes are done with an elegant dance, cherished insinuations rather then a sleazy spectacle. The show isn’t flashy and it doesn’t need to be because of the immensely talented cast. Even the sets are simple. The costumes are where the producers splurged. Glamorously stunning, they stay true to the iconic wears from the movie, while still adding their own Broadway spin.

In many ways Pretty Woman: The Musical seems like the antithesis of feminism and yet at its core, it emulates and showcases what those ideals are. Vivian is a strong woman who doesn’t need a man, doesn’t even want one, and yet love still occurs.

Yes, Pretty Woman is in fact a love story. Not because there is a prince and they ride off into the sunset at the end. But because love happens in the most unexpected of places and in the most untraditional of ways. In the era of Tinder, and online dating nothing is typical anymore. Because of that, we cannot stereotype or pass quick judgements. Even mapping our lives out tends to change directions when we least expect it and that is why despite seeming so fantastical, Pretty Woman is so darn relatable and enjoyable. It would be a big mistake to miss it. Big. Huge.

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It is currently in previews at the Nederlander Theatre and officially opens August 16

Have you seen Pretty Woman: The Musical? Have you seen the movie? What did you think?