About three years ago, I was rather excited about seeing the musical production of “First Wives Club” in Chicago. It was to be it’s premiere before heading to Broadway. Seeing as I loved the movie, I figured this would be awesome.
It wasn’t. It didn’t go to Broadway. I was disappointed.
So when I heard that “Pretty Woman” was being worked as a musical, naturally I was reticent. Oh yes, I was reticent. (Thank you, Mrs. Shinn.) Would “Pretty Woman The Musical” suffer the same fate as “First Wives Club The Musical”?
I bought my ticket to see the show for a few reasons:
- A 50th birthday gift to myself.
- To see a show before the folks on Broadway.
- Samantha Barks.
- To give it a chance.
- I love theatre.
- I love musical theatre.
- Did I mention Samantha and Orfeh?
As it turns out, I was very glad I bought that ticket.
There’s quite a lot that “Pretty Woman The Musical” got right. First off, the book was by Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton – the folks responsible for the movie we all know and love. Lawton wrote the motion picture. The music and lyrics were written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance – relevant in the 80s, relevant now. The casting was very, very good – so much talent on one stage.
What really disappointed me about “First Wives Club The Musical” was that it didn’t really seem reminiscent of the movie upon which it was based. The story went too far afield. In “Pretty Woman The Musical,” however, most of the absolute best moments of the movie showed up on stage – but without being mere imitations. (Many of these moments – whether images or quotables – got applause.) Ultimately, the deliciousness of the movie remained, but with just a bit of a different flavor. Not better, not worse. Just different.
That is where Samantha Barks and Orfeh really shined for me. I mean, besides the amazing vocal pipes. (Seriously, if the sound system went out, their voices would still bounce off the back wall of the house.) Barks as Vivian and Orfeh as Kit brought the characters to life in such a way that they didn’t imitate Julia Roberts and Laura San Giacomo. Sure, there were similarities. That can’t be helped because so much is in the scripting already. But they found ways to make those iconic characters their own. And to hear the two of them sing – live, rather than on my TV or computer – was just a fantastic experience. Such pure, powerful voices. So lovely.
The rest of the cast was very strong. Eric Anderson’s versatility and range was so very admirable and highly entertaining. Steve Kazee was a steady, staid Edward – not quite with the flash and pizzazz of Richard Gere, but with much more depth of character. His growth and transformation over the course of the show made Kazee’s Edward much more relatable for me. And, quite frankly, I was blown away by Allison Blackwells singing – again, it was pure and powerful with an amazing range.
The production design was fantastic. Sets, lights, transitions – they all worked so beautifully (as they should) to keep the show running seamlessly. Everything just worked. And if something was off, the audience was not aware of it. The costumes were delightful – indicative of the period, aiding in character development. And Barks looks good in that white pantsuit!
If I wanted to get a little nit-picky, it would be about the lyrics. Every now and again – not very often at all – the opening lyrics to a couple of songs were a little….pedestrian. But, after the first few lines of lyrics, that feeling went away and the songs hit their grooves, so to speak. Really, though, that’s me getting super nit-picky. I really liked the music!
Overall, “Pretty Woman The Musical” was fun, sexy, and entertaining. I hope it has a great run on Broadway.
*If you want to see “First Wives Club The Musical” to judge for yourself, it’s on YouTube.