By Jan Sjostrom
You’ll probably love Pretty Woman: The Musical if you adored the 1990 hit movie that launched Julia Roberts’ career. The story about a hooker who lands a fabulously rich guy and lives happily ever after is ripped almost word for word from the film.
That’s probably no surprise as the musical on stage at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach was co-written by the late Garry Marshall, the film’s director, and J.F. Lawton, who authored the screenplay.
To strengthen the connection the costumes that streetwalker Vivian wears at the start of the show and as elegant eye candy for corporate raider Edward Lewis mirror those in the film.
Like the movie, the musical conveniently glosses over the exploitation and degradation of a life of prostitution. The musical papers over this blind spot with a running theme of holding on to your dreams but that’s a meager covering for the tarnished Cinderella story.
The show, which is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, whips along at a breakneck pace. It’s loaded with zippy song-and-dance numbers performed around glitzy flying sets framed by lit palm trees against a changing backdrop of solid colors.
In the most significant departure from the movie, the on-stage extravaganza is emceed by a narrator identified as Happy Man, played by the triple threat Travis Ward-Osborne, who also portrays the helpful hotel manager and the fawning shop owner who outfits Vivian. Watch for his light-footed tango scene with the bellhops.
In general, the performers outstrip the material. The score, written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, echoes Adams’ guitar-driven 1980s rock output. While pleasant enough, it’s hardly memorable.
As Vivian, the big-voiced supple mover Jessie Davidson lives her songs, most notably in “Anywhere But Here” and” I Can’t Go Back.” She slips into Vivian’s thigh-high stiletto heeled boots with almost manic comic energy. As the story progresses Vivian’s smart-mouth persona peels away, although she remains determined to be true to herself.
Davidson dominates her scenes with Adam Pascal (Broadway’s Rent and Aida), the show’s Edward. To be fair, the script allows Pascal only a short hop from hard-nosed businessman to bemused romantic. His portrayal is uninteresting – until he begins to sing when his voice, with its controlled rawness mixed with pure tone, mesmerizes. It’s shown to best advantage in Edward’s boundary-breaking number “Freedom.”
Notable supporting performers include Jessica Crouch who struts the stage with vitality and a powerhouse voice as Vivian’s soul sister and fellow prostitute Kit. Trent Soyster brings nimble dance skills and slapstick levity to his role as the bellhop Giulio. Jade Amber portrays La Traviata’s Violetta in the scene where Edward introduces Vivian to opera with a soaring soprano worthy of a diva.
Pretty Woman: The Musical doesn’t aspire to be more than what it is. And that is a walk down memory lane to a soundtrack that doesn’t distract from the nostalgia.
Pretty Woman: The Musical runs through March 12 at the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd, West Palm Beach. Performances 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $40 to $111. For tickets call (561) 832-7479 or visit kravis.org/events/pretty-woman/