06 September 2021 (released)
06 September 2021
Anyone with nostalgic affection for the 1990 Julia Roberts hit film Pretty Woman will know that it is a deliciously shallow Cinderella story about a loveable hooker and a ruthless business man. She needs money and he needs love and they both know ‘how to cut a deal’. There’s little more too it, apart from great costumes, the luscious Beverley Hills hotel and of course, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. So almost thirty years later, making a musical is both a guaranteed winner in terms of audience and given that it’s hard to replicate the Roberts/Gere dynamic, you might think, an opportunity to take it in a new direction. Perhaps dig a little deeper and find out what theatre can do that film can’t?
Disappointingly, this new musical stays rather too close to the film original although happily, it has a completely new score from Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. Despite being somewhat derivative, the music has a lot of charm with stand out numbers including ‘Anywhere but Here’, the Tango ‘On a Night Like Tonight’ and the signature Bryan Adams romantic number, ‘You and I’.
Aimie Atkinson as Vivian and Danny Mac as Edward both give strong vocal performances but whilst Atkinson appears to be imitating Roberts, Mac is quite different casting to Gere. Presumably they were trying update the gender politics of the original and tone down the ‘old man rescues young girl’ so he is noticeably less old and cross, which may be more palatable but ultimately waters down the drama. Rachael Wooding however gives a gutsy, convincing performance as Kit de Luca and Bob Harms runs with a dream part, the only role that has really been developed from the film. Not only is he the hotel manager who takes Vivien under his wing but the all-seeing narrator and Tango dancing magician.
Broadway director, Jerry Mitchell, keeps the show moving but generally plays it safe with many scenes that could have been lifted directly from the film and the large ensemble used in a rather traditional way. One unexpected disappointment was the stage and lighting design which lacks the luxurious extravagance of the rich in the eighties. The use of silhouette and simple scenery cooled scenes below romantic temperature, where they needed to be wrapped in red velvet and bathed in the glitter of chandeliers.
That said the famously romantic night at the Opera was far better than the film. Here they dare to let go of the shackles of realism, spinning the box into the centre of the stage with a stunning interlocking operatic and pop vocals creating a magical musical moment.
If you love the film and are looking for a good night out, the Savoy Theatre is gorgeous and Pretty Woman, the Musical has enough nostalgia and plenty of great news tunes to lift your spirits.