NYC THEATRE: “Pretty Woman”

By Leonard Feigenblatt ~ “Pretty Woman” is based on the 1990 film that starred Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, which was directed by Garry Marshall (who died in 2016) and written by J. F. Lawton. The musical has a book by Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton, which follows the film version very closely, in which Vivian Ward is a relatively new Hollywood Boulevard hooker. Edward is an extremely wealthy businessman, in Hollywood for business. Vivian runs into Edward when he gets lost on Hollywood Boulevard, and he ends up hiring Vivian to be his escort for the week.  Of course, by week’s end, they fall in love.

Let’s start with the music andlyrics in this production, by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance – Sorry but they are unremarkable. This score really sinks themusical. A few chords of Roy Orbison’s song “Pretty Woman” wouldreally have livened things up. However there is a bit of the opera “LaTraviata,” albeit poorly sung.

Andy Karl, always a wonderful actorand singer, makes as much of Edward as he possible can. (Karl was chosen as thereplacement of Tony Award winner Steve Kazee, who originated the role ofEdward in the Chicago tryout but during Broadway rehearsals had a familyemergency and left the musical.) The role of Edward, however, does not give himthe opportunity to really shine, as he did when he starred in themusical “Groundhog Day” on Broadway in 2017. That musicalscore was similarly awful, yet he was able to rise above the material and turnin an amazing, award-winning performance. 

Samantha Barks plays Vivian. Shehas a beautiful voice and looks terrific, but she has a problem making a roleher own. When it opened on Broadway, Frances Ruffelle won acclaim and aTony Award for her performance as Eponime in the musical “LesMiserables.” Barks portrayed Eponime in the 2012 film version of”Les Miserables” as well. But it was ultimately Anne Hathaway, whoplayed Fantine, that walked away with the reviews and the Academy Awardfor Best Supporting Actress. Here, too, even though she is verygood, there are two people who outshine her: the memory of Julia Roberts’Vivian from the film version, and Orfeh, who plays opposite her inthe musical, as her best friend and fellow hooker, Kit DeLuca.

Orfeh is a scene stealing sensationwith a powerhouse voice. The other scene-stealer in this production is EricAnderson. He plays two different roles: Mr. Happy, the man on HollywoodBoulevard, who sells maps of the stars’ homes; and Mr. Thompson, the manager ofthe Beverly Wilshire Hotel where Edward is staying in the penthouse suite.Anderson keeps both roles totally separate and steals every scene he isin. On his resume, under occupation, where he would fill in ‘actor,’ hecould very easily fill in ‘thief.’ 

Jason Danieley is not so lucky inhis portrayal of Edward’s lawyer, Philip Stuckey. Though he has an amazingvoice, here, he hardly sings. He is very miscast and looks embarrassed andconfused.

Fire Island Pines resident JerryMitchell is the director and choreographer of this production. He has donebrilliant work on Broadway before. His choreography has won him two TonyAwards. One for the first Broadway revival of “La Cage Aux Folles” in2005, and another for the 2017 “Kinky Boots,” which is still runningat Broadway’s Al Hirschfeld Theatre. While Mitchell has choreographed manyrousing dance numbers over his career, here he does nothing to liven up theproceedings.

Similarly, David Rockwell, one ofthe best theatrical scenic designers in the business, has designed a verytacky, minimalistic set that has little effect. The same can be said of thecostume designs of Gregg Barnes. Although they follow the costume designs ofthe film closely, they too are lackluster.

“Pretty Woman” just blandlywashes over you. The question to ask is, why do a musical based on afilm if you have nothing to add and can’t improve on it?       

Nederlander Theatre

208 West 41st St.

New York, NY 10036

The Green Room 42

The Broadway Sings Unpluggedseries, where Broadway performers celebrate various pop artists, will include:

Beyonce on March 25, 2019 

Pink on April 29, 2019 

Rihanna on May 30, 2019

Kelly Clarkson on June 24, 2019

Alanis Morrisette on July 29, 2019

Bruno Mars on Aug. 26, 2019

All shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m.

There is a full bar menu for foodand beverage but never a minimum at The Green Room 42.

The Green Room 42 (inside Yotel)

4th Floor

570 Tenth Ave.

New York, NY 10036