By Sandi Durell
I would like to continue saying, you’ll love this contemporary, somewhat updated stage version currently at the Nederlander Theatre. But, alas, although this Pretty Woman doesn’t wander far from the 1990 film, written by J.F. Lawton, this Cinderella tale, about a hooker filled with dreams, will probably fail to leave you with much fulfillment when you leave the theater, nor much to hum about.
With a book by Garry Marshall & J.F. Lawton, the music and lyrics for this conundrum are written by rocker Bryan Adams and partner Jim Vallance – a mix of pop rock, country and heart-rending ballads that are supposed to create longing, love and lust but, in many instances, lyrically don’t amount to much except banal rhymes. I’m not saying it all doesn’t work . . . just not enough.
We know the story: big shot billionaire corporate raider Edward Lewis (played close to the vest by the charming, sexy, vocally smooth Andy Carl [Groundhog Day], is approached by Vivian Ward, a street prostitute, (delicious, dimpled young Brit Samantha Barks with a gorgeous voice (Éponine – Les Miserables in the film) where he’s lost and looking to get to the Beverly Wilshire. Yes, there’s “Something About Her” sings Edward, as things progress in his penthouse suite and he hires her for a week of sex, companionship and lots of shopping at upscale “Rodeo Drive” (nice production number – thanks to Jerry Mitchell’s sleek choreography) featuring the feisty powerhouse, perfectly cast Orfeh (that’s Andy Karl’s wife) as Kit, the mothering hooker who tries to steer the soft-hearted Vivian in the right direction.
Of course, what would now be labeled exploitation of women surely wouldn’t sit right with the young #MeToo generation, but since the show seems to attract a more mature woman audience member, this doesn’t seem to be an issue. A whole bunch of women from the Julia Roberts-Richard Gere movie era were squealing with glee and broad smiles just in front of me.
The big highlight is Eric Anderson as the narrator, Happy Man, and especially as the hotel’s manager Mr. Thompson who artfully tutor’s Vivian and makes it all happen for the coarse street walker to buy, buy, buy whatever it takes to turn her into Cinderella with Edward’s credit card. Anderson is smooth as silk singing and dancing, especially the tango – “On a Night Like Tonight” with bellboy Tommy Bracco, providing a lot of comic relief.
You’ll like Jason Danieley as the slimy lawyer Philip Stuckey, whose only interest is in how much commission he stands to make on Edward’s latest takeover plan of James Morse’s (a formidable Ezra Knight) cruise line “Welcome to Our World (More Champagne)” and the down and dirty play he makes for Vivian in the penthouse.
The Julia Roberts’ film specials – the red dress at the opera and more, are lovingly addressed with imagination by Gregg Barnes. David Rockwell’s sets are of minimalist stylings but we always know where we are. You’ll have fun seeing Vivian in the bathtub with earphones and, oh my, a very sexy scene of the love couple atop the grand piano and in the bedroom. And lest you forget, this Vivian Ward plays it smart and is full of spit and vinegar.
It’s a flight to fantasy (ala My Fair Lady) – the thing Broadway does best, replete with some laughs and fun. And you also get to hear soprano Allison Blackwell as Violetta singing from “La Traviata.” Huh?
Photos: Matthew Murphy
Pretty Woman: The Musical – Nederlander Theatre, 208 West 41st Street, 2 hrs. 30 min (one intermission) www.prettywomanthemusical.com