Interview: Matthew Stocke Talks PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL at Wharton Center, And Why the Love Story Continues to Enthrall Audiences

Witness the modern fairytale at Wharton Center December 13th through 18th.

By: Dec. 06, 2022
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Pretty Woman
Matthew Stocke

From December 13th to 18th, you won't want to be anywhere other than Wharton Center while the national tour of Pretty Woman: The Musical makes its East Lansing debut. Closely based on the 1990 film of the same name, Pretty Woman is a modern rom-com classic featuring the love story of a Hollywood Boulevard prostitute and an affluent businessman. After more than a year on the road, Pretty Woman finally comes to Wharton Center for a week of high-energy ensemble dance numbers, a pop-rock score, and the beloved story translated to stage.

BroadwayWorld Michigan had the pleasure of speaking to Matthew Stocke, who plays avaricious lawyer Philip Stuckey in the show. Read our conversation below!


BroadwayWorld Michigan: Can you give readers a brief overview of yourself and your theatre career?

Matthew Stocke: I got started late. I was a baseball player, I wasn't even thinking about being an actor until I was about 18. By all the stars aligning I ended up at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, which is my hometown. This changed my life forever. I graduated in 1995, moved to New York, and I've been plowing away for almost 28 years. It's been quite an adventure. I've made a living doing what I love to do and I've been able to work on Broadway since 1998.

How long have you been with Pretty Woman?

I'm the ranking old-timer. Other than our director, I've been with this longer than anybody. I did the first reading of this incarnation of the show just about exactly 6 years ago. In 2016 we did a very small industry reading and then I was with [the show] through all the developmental stages. We opened on Broadway in August of 2018 and closed on Broadway in August of 2019.

And you've been with this show the whole time?

I have been. There was a lot of talk about the tour before we even closed on Broadway, but of course there was that pesky little pandemic. I got a call in May of 2021 about interest in doing the tour. Considering we didn't know if there were going to be any jobs anywhere, and that they were going to bump me up to play a role I had understudied on Broadway, it was a good opportunity. We've been out here for 14 months and it's absolutely a miracle that we've been able to tour.

That said, what role does your character Stuckey play in the story?

I personally love playing this role. I've very seldom gotten to play the baddie. I refer to my [character] as a kind of a consilier for the godfather. I am Tom Hagen to Michael Corleone. I do his bidding, I make money for him. He makes money for me. For the first part of the show, Stuckey is just a loudmouth coked-up kind of capo doing the bidding of his boss and making millions of dollars. He then finds out about Vivian and things take a turn. I always say that Stuckey couldn't care less that she's a prostitute. Stuckey cares that she's taking money out of his pocket.

What has been the most challenging part about playing this role?

If you take it seriously, and I like to believe that I have integrity in what I do, it's no fun to attack a woman. That's certainly not been part of my life. It's tough. Olivia Valli, who played [Vivian] for the first (almost) year and now Jessie Davidson, they're both marvelous actresses. We take the end of the show very seriously. It's a violent scene. It's a passionate scene. There's choreography to it. We make sure we do it right and safely first and foremost, and we give it everything. I won't say it is difficult, but it is challenging.

What sets the stage adaptation of Pretty Woman apart from the beloved movie?

Some of the characters have taken on smaller or larger parts, including Kyle Taylor Parker, who plays the roles of Happy Man, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Hollister...he shows up throughout the show as an omnipotent storyteller, which I think is a great mechanism for the show. In my opinion, he's the veins that run through the show. He's just spectacular.

And obviously, people break out in song. Even though the soundtrack to the movie was iconic and had about 20 hit songs on it, you didn't have Richard Gere busting out into song. Here you have Adam Pascal screaming his face off like everyone wants him to, and he absolutely crushes it.

What about the story do you feel continues to enthrall audiences well over 30 years after the movie originally came out?

The love story, man. It's funny, I saw an interview last night with Richard Curtis, the guy who wrote and directed Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. He brought up a good point, that there's a thousand movies about serial killers and in the history of mankind there's only been about 10 of them. And everyday, 50 million people fall in love or fall out of love.

You know, sometimes the cheesy love stories don't get the props. I think certainly now a story about how people meet, how they change each other's lives, how they get into each other's hearts, is a pretty universal idea. I think there's about 0.2% of people in the world who want to mess it up and the rest of us just want to have a good meal and fall in love. That's our story. A girl knows what she wants and she gets it. You get a happy ending. He says, "What happens when he climbs up and rescues the princess?" "She rescues him right back." Boom. There's your story.

Do you have any social media accounts you'd like people to follow?

@matthewjamesstocke

Is there anything else you would like readers to know about the show or about yourself?

Just how incredibly grateful I am that we get to do this show all the way across the country. People have been coming and enjoying themselves and letting us know about it. I'm psyched to come back to Michigan. It will be nice to be there right before Christmas. It will also be nice that it's our last city before we go on Christmas break. You're going to have a lot of happy people when we go to East Lansing.

I say this - my job is easy, touring is not. It was easy at 27, it's not easy at 51. I miss my girlfriend, I miss our cats, I miss the apartment, I miss cooking with my girlfriend. Touring is rough. It does get a little exhausting sometimes. But I'm so grateful. I play make believe for a living and get paid for it, and it's the greatest job in the world.

We're very fortunate, especially during this time where theatre is coming back. It's not all the way back, but it's coming back. Every night the last thing that happens is that people stand up and they clap for me. It's a pretty good life, I can't complain.


Tickets for Pretty Woman: The Musical are on sale now at Wharton Center's official ticketing outlets: online at whartoncenter.com, at the Auto-Owners Insurance Ticket Office at Wharton Center, or by calling 1-800-WHARTON.

To keep updated with Pretty Woman as they travel around the country on their national tour, visit their website at tour.prettywomanthemusical.com, and follow them on Twitter at @prettywoman, on Instagram at @prettywoman, and on Facebook at facebook.com/PrettyWoman.

Note: This interview has been edited for brevity.



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