The “Pretty Woman” Broadway tour came to the Overture Center in downtown Madison from Oct. 18 to 23 and served as an entertaining way to spend an evening.
Directed by Gary Marshall, this adaption of the 1990 classic romantic comedy of the same name was an enjoyable show for an audience looking for an easy watch. The production covers the Cinderella storyline of Vivian Ward, a Hollywood sex worker looking for something more, and Edward Lewis, a millionaire businessman figuring out money is not everything.
The Tuesday night audience was on the older side, but that did not mean they were afraid to get lively. It was easy to see there was overall enjoyment of the production during the bow number, as well as during the 30 second applause break after “On a Night Like Tonight.” There were, however, some wristwatch checks in the two hour 30 minute run time, and audience members began to stir towards the middle of the second act.
On the technical side, the sets and lighting were beautiful. Palm trees decorated with lights framed the stage and added to the soft gradient of the backdrop, which changed colors to fit the mood of the songs. A grunge ridden Hollywood Boulevard rustic bench and apartment were the antithesis of the sets of the room, lobby and ballroom of the fancy Beverly Wilshire hotel. Two particularly creative moments in using scenery include the mobile opera box in “You and I” and the design of the bench in the finale.
Costuming was phenomenal in its replication of the film's iconic outfits. Audience members enjoyed seeing familiar favorite looks come to life on the stage before them, especially the opening look for Vivian and her “transformation to a lady” attire.
The cast was extremely talented. The ensemble vocals were stellar, but actresses Jessie Davidson, who played Vivian, and Jessica Crouch, who played Kit De Luca, stood out. The audience roared after challenging endings to “Rodeo Drive” and “Anywhere But Here” were sung with ease. There were a handful of moments that produced hearty laughter from the audience. These moments often followed the play’s favorite character based on overall engagement, Giulio. Giulio is the bellhop of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, and was played by Trent Soyster.
With the positives given their due credit, it is now time to move onto the less than spectacular parts of the show. Attending the show with others who are not as involved and educated in theater, it is clear that the average theatergoer had an overall positive experience with the show. But similar to other critics who have reviewed this show, it is evident that theater connoisseurs looking for a deeper impact are likely to be underwhelmed. Similar to some other movie-remade-as-a-musical shows, it was fun and resembled the source material, but little lasting effect came from it.
This production was not what would be considered groundbreaking or a “must see” by any definition. Were audience members entertained? Of course they were — talented professionals were working hard to make sure of that. Will the audience remember this show a month out? The answer is not as certain. It was pretty — and there was a woman — but the strong emotions brought out by the movie were not palpable with the same passion in this rendition.
It was difficult to understand why some songs were included other than to give the main characters a break offstage. One of these is “Never Give Up On A Dream” which came as a surprise when expecting the story to move on. Moments like these might have been more pleasurable in a shorter run time, but adding unnecessary ballads in the end of a 2.5 hour performance might not be the best idea to keep an audience fully engaged.
In addition, it was hard to root for Edward — played by Adam Pascal — to win over Vivian. Perhaps it was the writing in the book of the show, but when the finale ended with Edward climbing the fire escape, it felt lackluster and disappointing. It was easier to cheer for Vivian and Kit to find their own paths than it was to cheer for Edward to come in as another Prince Charming hero.
The problem with the show generally lies in the book and music. Though it may be hard to recreate a film without the leeway provided by editing and cinematography, if you can not do the source justice, it is more respectful to not produce the show.