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Review: PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL at Ottawa's National Arts Centre

Review: PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL at Ottawa's National Arts Centre

It’s not ground-breaking theatre, but if you want a fun night out with more than a smidgen of nostalgia, Pretty Woman delivers.

Pretty Woman The Musical

Pretty Woman The Musical opened last night to an excited crowd in Ottawa. It was recently pointed out to me that the largest demographic of the theatre going audience is 40- to 55-year females. This is precisely the target market that Pretty Woman seeks, so it wasn't surprising that a large part of the audience seemed to fall into this age category. The musical is based on the 1990 smash hit movie that introduced the world to Julia Roberts. For those who don't already know, Pretty Woman tells the story of Vivian Ward (Jessie Davidson) a down on her luck prostitute who meets a wealthy businessman, Edward Lewis (Adam Pascal), by chance and accepts an offer to become his escort for a week while he schmoozes way into a new corporate deal, as he wants to focus on his work without any romantic complications. What ensues is a Cinderella-meets-My-Fair-Lady story where Vivian learns how to act like a proper lady, but ultimately wants her own fairy tale ending, rather than the offer of a great condo to cozy up to her billionaire whenever it suits him. Meanwhile, Edward, much like Henry Higgins, falls in love with his own creation, but only realizes it after Vivian has disappeared from his life. Like Prince Charming, he must find her and rescue her from her life of poverty and prostitution.

(L to R) <a target=Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli." height="267" src="https://cloudimages.broadwayworld.com/upload13/2209905/Pretty-Woman-3.jpg" width="400" />
(L to R) Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli.
Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Performances overall were excellent, thanks to an experienced cast. I had high expectations for Pascal, as he originated the role of Roger in Rent. Vocally, Pascal did not disappoint, however I didn't feel that he and Davidson shared the kind of chemistry required to make the audience truly believe in their unlikely romance. Davidson was given a chance to showcase her impressive vocal abilities in songs like "I Can't Go Back", but she also had to sing some of the more uninspired numbers.

What set this show apart was the fact that the supporting cast, in large part, outshone the principal characters. The biggest standout to me was Kyle Taylor Parker. He is credited only as 'Happy Man', but wears many hats throughout the show, not least of which is Barnard Thompson, the uppity but kind manager of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Parker oozes charm to the point that he invariably stole every single scene in which he appeared. Nowhere was this more apparent than in "On A Night Like Tonight".

Trent Soyster was also a pleasure to watch in the role of Giulio, the Beverly Wilshire's bellhop. He has great comedic timing and adds to his character with subtle mannerisms. He and Parker made a fabulous duo; I could have watched them all night.

The Company of Pretty Woman: The Musical
The Company of Pretty Woman: The Musical.
Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Matthew Stocke was deliciously sleazy as Edward's lawyer, Philip Stuckey. Stocke was so convincing in his role that the audience seemed unsure of how to reward him for his performance at the curtain call. After a few seconds of hesitation, the polite Canadians opted for applause, but Stocke told me last week that he is often booed at the end of the night.

Jessica Crouch embodied her movie counterpart in the role of Kit De Luca. Sassy and smart-alecky, as in the movie, she was mostly used for comic relief but her voice was highlighted on the rock and roll number, "Rodeo Drive", and she proved that she could hold her own.

The songs, by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, were uneven. Some, like the opening and closing numbers, "Welcome to Hollywood" and "Together Forever", as well as "You and I", were super catchy, but others, were instantly forgettable, dragged on for too long, or were overly repetitious. "Long Way Home" is by no means a terrible song, but the word 'extraordinary' was repeated six times in one verse near the end and it made whole song start to feel ridiculous.

<a target=Amma Osei and The Company of Pretty Woman: The Musicall" height="267" src="https://cloudimages.broadwayworld.com/upload13/2209905/Pretty-Woman-10.jpg" width="400" />
Amma Osei and The Company of Pretty Woman: The Musical.
Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

The most unexpected, but welcome, surprise came in the form of the opera that Vivian and Edward attend in Act II. The ensuing number, "You and I", a true pop rock song in classic Bryan Adams style, is prefaced with a mini performance of La Traviata. Violetta's (understudied last night by Keyonna Knight) absolutely gorgeous soprano and Alfredo's (Jonathan Young) strong tenor vocals left me begging for more. Some of Violetta's operatic vocals reappear in the middle of "You and I" and, although it is different, it doesn't quite work as well as it was probably intended. This intertwining of opera and pop vocals is later repeated in the finale, "Together Forever" with a much better result.

(L to R) <a target=Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli." height="480" src="https://cloudimages.broadwayworld.com/upload13/2209905/Pretty-Woman-9.jpg" width="320" />
(L to R) Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli.
Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

The production is almost entirely faithful to the movie and things that have been changed are logical for its transition from screen to stage. The costumes (Gregg Barnes) and, to a lesser extent, the scenic design (David Rockwell), bring the movie to life, but some of the smaller details were the most impressive to me. In the scene when Vivian watches television on the floor of the penthouse, the use of the stage's front lights (Kenneth Posner and Philip S. Rosenberg) to mimic that of a television set flickering on Vivian's face was genius. There is also some wonderful choreography (Rusty Mowery), especially in "On A Night Like Tonight" and "You and I".

If you're a fan of the movie, you will find plenty to enjoy in this show. It's not ground-breaking theatre, but if you want a fun night out with more than a smidgen of nostalgia, Pretty Woman delivers.

Broadway Across Canada's presentation of Pretty Woman: The Musical is at Ottawa's National Arts Centre through November 20th. Click here for more information or to buy tickets.



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