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Review: PRETTY WOMAN at the Ohio Theatre - Powerful Vocals Despite Dated Material

PRETTY WOMAN: Powerful Vocals Despite Dated Material

Pretty Woman
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

An illustrious creative team is at the helm of Pretty Woman: THE MUSICAL, with direction and choreography by two-time Tony Award®-winner Jerry Mitchell, music and lyrics by Grammy®-winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, and book by the movie's legendary director Garry Marshall and screenwriter J. F. Lawton. But is that enough to make this stage adaptation successful? That depends.

The film that basically orbited Julia Roberts' career, Pretty Woman tells the Cinderella story of Hollywood prostitute Vivian Ward who gets hired by rich business tycoon Edward Lewis (played originally by Richard Gere) to accompany him as arm candy for a week in order to close a multimillion dollar business deal. Vivian's naivety and charm matched with her spunky demeanor eventually wins over the heart of Edward in a true Cinderella boy-saves-girl fashion.

If you're a fan of the beloved 1990 movie, you might enjoy this endearing stage version that's pretty much a word-for-word replica of the original. But if you're looking for something more, something a little deeper or more insightful based on modern times, you won't find it here. In fact, the only notable change from film to stage was saying her dress size is a 2 instead of a 6 from the original movie. Not really sure why that choice was made, but facts should be better checked. Big mistake. Big. Huge.

Leading the cast as Edward Lewis is veteran Adam Pascal who played the original Roger Davis in Broadway's RENT. As a seasoned performer, he is a fitting match to the less experienced Olivia Valli who, as Vivian Ward, captures his heart with her naivety, infectious smile, and relentless grit. In RENT, Pascal has already proven himself a vocal genius and thankfully this musical gives him another opportunity to shine in that regard. However, he seemed to be bored (at least on opening night) playing the role of Edward which unfortunately led to more of a flat acting performance.

Olivia Valli (yes, granddaughter of Frankie) is a real spitfire in her role as Vivian Ward. Although somewhat of a newcomer, she commands the stage with all the confidence and poise of an accomplished professional. Her voice is impressively powerful (especially in "I Can't Go Back") and I can't wait to see her develop into more desirable roles.

Jessica Crouch is excellent as Vivian's friend, Kit De Luca, and Michael Dalke who filled in for Kyle Taylor Parker as Happy Man, also did a fine job as he bounced between multiple characters.

While fans of the film may have an entertaining trip down memory lane with recycled dialogue from the original, true theatergoers will struggle with its simplicity, and me-too'ers will have a hard time wrestling with the prostitute / woman-needs-saving aspect that is terribly outdated and doesn't translate well to stage.

If you can put all that aside and go for pure entertainment value only, you will definitely enjoy some laughs and stellar vocals from exceptionally talented performers.

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL plays at the Ohio Theatre through April 3rd. For tickets, order online at cbusarts.com, call 614-469-0939, or visit the CBUSArts Ticket Center at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street).



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