Based on the popular 1990’s film, the musical never strays too far from the original material but does manage to offer extra depth to characters.
Pretty Woman the Musical was the last big West End production that I saw before lockdown in 2020 so it was nice to be able to revisit in its new home of the Savoy Theatre and to be charmed once more by the music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance which gives the characters their emotional core wonderfully well.
For those unfamiliar with the story (which seems to somewhat soften Vivian’s job in comparison to the film which means it loses some of its grittiness), it follows the growing and changing relationship between ‘professional’ Vivian and straight-laced businessman Edward Lewis who come to a business arrangement while he is staying in Los Angeles. Along the way through their different attitudes towards life they learn more about themselves as well. It is a typical Hollywood fairytale romance that will appeal to those with a romantic sense of the world.
Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, the script doesn’t diverge too far from the film (the book is by Garry Marshall who directed the film and J.E. Lawton so this isn’t too much of a surprise) and will be comfortingly familiar to fans of the film. However, what was more pleasing for me is the way in which characters such as Kit and the hotel manager (who actually has a lot to do with Edward and Vivian’s growing relationship) have been developed and incorporated more into the plot which in turn adds extra depth to the central relationship. It is a production that constantly fizzes with energy and joy from the big opening number ‘Welcome to Hollywood’ right up until the end.
Visually, the audience is swept back to 1980’s Los Angeles with effective use of neon lighting, simplistic but practical set design and by David Rockwell and fun costume designs by Tom Rogers – which although replicate some of the familiar costumes from the film add a slight contemporary twist to make them stand out. You can’t fault the attention that has been paid to ensure that the key moments in the story have been replicated perfectly and respectfully.
For me though, it is the music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance that make this show special. We all know that Adams can write a romantic song and there are plenty to really enjoy here. ‘You & I’ is gorgeously understated and sensitive – coming at just the right point in the show (the famous opera scene), while ‘Something About Her’ is equally special. But there is also joy to be found in songs such as ‘Never Give Up On A Dream’ which fits in perfectly with the story’s central theme of dreams that shines throughout and the powerful sounding ‘I Can’t Go Back’ capturing Vivian’s new found confidence and self-belief perfectly.
Performance wise, there are plenty to be enjoyed. Bob Harms as a variety of characters is a sheer joy to watch as he switches characters so effortlessly and is a constantly reliable support engaging with the audience to keep them thoroughly entertained – his performance of ‘Don’t Forget to Dance’ is a real highlight . Alex Charles has a wonderful naive charm about him as bellboy who puts a smile on your face whenever you see him. As Vivian, Elly Jay has a lovely softness to her performance that is both playful and charming, highlighting the character’s vulnerability and loneliness well captured perfectly during her rendition of ‘This is My Life’. Perhaps she could be a little bit sharper in the moments in which she challenges other characters as they judge her but this is a minor thing. Danny Mac as Edward has a natural charisma that makes him ideal for this role, but also manages to bring to the forefront the character’s deep sense of reflection of how he has ended up where he is. Together, Jay and Mac’s chemistry is more romantic than passionate but it works well and is completely believable.
There is no denying that Pretty Woman is simply a entertaining night out whether it is for a girls night out or a romantic date – you will leave the theatre with a smile on your face.
By Emma Clarendon
Pretty Woman the Musical continues to play at the Savoy Theatre . To book tickets click here or visit: Love Theatre.com, Theatre Tickets Direct, London Theatre Direct, From the Box Office and Last Minute.com.