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Pretty Woman – The Musical review at Nederlander Theatre, New York – ‘peppy, with winning performances’

Andy Karl and Samantha Barks in Pretty Woman – The Musical at the Nederlander Theatre, New York. Photo: Matthew Murphy

In this stage musical adaptation of the 1990 film Pretty Woman, Sweet Charity meets My Fair Lady, but with a happier ending. The story follows rich investor Edward and Hollywood Boulevard sex worker Vivian, whom he asks for directions and then ends up hiring for her company (and extras) for the six days he is in LA.

The plot is potentially problematic – it portrays a world in which a man asserts his economic dominance over a woman to buy her time and favours, while she uses sex to get out of her own difficulties (she’s being evicted from her apartment for rent arrears).

But in the musical’s hard-edged but soft-centred book, Garry Marshall and JF Lawson (who directed and wrote the original film respectively) give Vivian all the agency. It is Edward who has the bigger journey to travel, from self-imposed isolation to a fuller engagement with the world as represented by Vivian’s life force.

So far, so familiar. But Jerry Mitchell’s peppy production is propelled by the sheer professionalism of its delivery, the attractive soft-rock songs of Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, and the chemistry of its leads.

British performer Samantha Barks is simultaneously tough and vulnerable as Vivian, while Andy Karl has an alpha-male sturdiness that makes the potentially unsympathetic character of Edward at once edgy and warm. There’s also scene-stealing work – and a fierce, belting voice – from Orfeh as Vivian’s best friend.

Jerry Mitchell, whether as director or choreographer, has past form with musical versions of popular movies, from Kinky Boots to Legally Blonde, all of which transferred to London. Pretty Woman is sure to follow them.

Verdict
Pretty Woman becomes a pretty good Broadway musical, with winning performances and score

Production

Production
Pretty Woman – The Musical
Venue
Nederlander Theatre
City
New York
Starts
July 20, 2018
Ends
March 10, 2019
Press night
August 16, 2018
Authors
JF Lawton (original screenplay)
Book
Garry Marshall, JF Lawton
Music
Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance
Lyrics
Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance
Director
Jerry Mitchell
Choreographer
Jerry Mitchell
Set
David Rockwell
Lighting
Kenneth Posner, Philip RS Rosenberg
Sound
John Shivers
Costume
Gregg Barnes
Technical
Will Van Dyke (music supervisor/arranger/orchestrato), Michael Altbaum (company manager)
Stage manager
Thomas Recktenwald
Cast includes
Samantha Barks, Andy Karl, Orfeh, Eric Anderson, Jason Danieley, Ezra Knight
Casting
Kelsey and Company, Craig Burns
Producer
Paula Wagner, Nice Productions, LPO, New Regency Productions, Caiola Productions and Co, James L Nederlander, Roy Furman, Hunter Arnold, Graham Burke, Edward Walson, deRoy Kierstead, Michael Cassel Group, Stage Entertainment, Ambassador Theatre Group and the John Gore Organization
Running time
2hrs 30mins