Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham
Who doesn't love a good Cinderella story? A protagonist coming from humble means, overcoming insurmountable odds, and having her dream come true seems like a sure bet when it comes to plot, and it's a story told often enough, but one that rarely gets tiring. Such is the case for Pretty Woman the musical, whose national tour is performing at the Durham Performing Arts Center through April 24.
Based on the popular 1990 motion picture of the same name, Pretty Woman gives us Vivian Ward (a lovely Olivia Valli), a Hollywood prostitute trying to get by with her wisecracking and fun-loving friend Kit De Luca (performed with pizzazz by Jessica Crouch). Vivian is hired by the handsome and wealthy Edward Lewis (portrayed at this performance by a talented Brent Thiessen) for a series of outings that stretch into a week-long stay with him. Their business transaction is complicated by the true affection they develop for one another, ending with the expected "...and they lived happily ever after." The story recalls plays and films of the past, including Pygmalion and its musical adaptation My Fair Lady, with an upper-class man taking a lower-class woman and transforming her into a more refined way of life. That plot is open to critique as being outdated and misogynistic, especially in today's current social and political climate.
Written by J.F. Lawton and Garry Marshall (who also directed the original film), the musical's plot does not stray far from the movie, but what this production has that the film does not is a score with music and lyrics by Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Bryan Adams and his longtime collaborator Jim Vallance. The songs are well constructed and for the most part have a sound similar to Adams' chart-topping hits.
The production is directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, who has been nominated eight times for the Tony Award for Best Choreography, winning for Kinky Boots and the revival of La Cage aux Folles. Mr. Mitchell seems at home with musicals based on popular motion pictures, and Pretty Woman rides on the popularity of its source material to attract audiences. Here, though, Mr. Mitchell's choreography comes off as less than inspired and more as unnecessary background or filler.
Tony Award-winning scenic designer David Rockwell has created simplistic yet effective scenery that transports one from Hollywood Boulevard to the luxuries of a high-end hotel with ease. Costume design by another Tony Award-winning designer, Gregg Barnes, has recreated the iconic styles worn by Julia Roberts and fills out the rest of the cast with new designs that harken back to the late 1980s with fond affection. Co-designers for lighting, Kenneth Posner and Philip S. Rosenberg, fill in the gaps with an eighties neon color palette where scenery is sparse.
Whether you are a fan of the original movie or not, the musical has the music and heart you'd expect. It may not be the best translation of a film to the stage, but Pretty Woman has plenty to offer fans who wish to be transported back to the time of the original film and to participate in the curtain call sing-along to Roy Orbison's title songa real crowd pleaser.
Pretty Woman, presented by Truist Broadway, runs through April 24, 2022, at Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St. Durham NC. For tickets and information, please visit https://www.dpacnc.com, DPAC in person, or by phone at 919-680-2787. For more information on the tour, visit tour.prettywomanthemusical.com.
Music and Lyrics: Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance