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Review: PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL at The Paramount

A forced and choppy retelling of a beloved movie.

Review: PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL at The Paramount
Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli in
Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Paramount.
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Dear Readers, we've discussed this before. Not every movie needs to be made into a musical. Sometimes it works, "Legally Blonde", "Waitress", and sometimes it's an unholy mess, "Flashdance". Furthermore, not every pop star needs to turn to writing musicals. Sometimes it works, "Waitress" (again), "Memphis", and sometimes you get an atrocious musical about a web slinging superhero. And while the current movie turned musical playing at the Paramount, "Pretty Woman" with music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance isn't the unholy atrocity of some others, it certainly doesn't work. Unfortunately, not only does it not work from the material but in this tour's case, from the director and cast choosing to ham-fistedly shoehorn every joke, every moment down our throats.

You know the story, at least you should as the movie is quite wonderful. The hooker with a heart of gold Vivian (Olivia Valli) meets uber rich businessman Edward (Adam Pascal). They meet by chance, and he ends up hiring her for the week he is in town to be on his arm (and in his bed) with no complications. But of course, after hijinks with rude salesgirls, slimy colleagues, and a kindly hotel manager (Kyle Taylor Parker), the two fall in love.

The story of the film shouldn't work, but with the writing of J.F. Lawton and the direction of the incomparable Garry Marshall it does. So, it's no surprise that the book of the musical is lifted almost verbatim from the screenplay. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But then there are the songs from Adams and Vallance. A less inspiring bunch of pop pablum I haven't heard in a while. Utterly forgettable and not a one of them moves any part of the story along. It seems they feel to make a song good they just need to repeat a sentiment until a talented singer can build that into a wailing belt of that sentiment and hope the audience applauds. And they do applaud but I still can't tell why. Sure, the singers are great, although the music only really lends itself to the wailing rocker genre in which Adams rose to fame. In fact, one song in the piece is a dead ringer for Adams "Heaven". But beyond that, there's little to hold onto.

However, with all those fine voices and hoofers in the cast, they should be able to make something of this. Well, not with the direction they are given. It seems director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell instructed them to treat this as a vaudeville act with oodles of mugging takes to the audience and beating every joke over the audience's head. They're the same jokes from the movie but all told in a very forced, over blown way, killing any kind of emotion the story may have had. But they are not concerned with emotion. In fact, the only genuine emotion came from Amma Osei when she was brilliantly belting out "La Traviata" in the Opera scene but then they kept undercutting that with one of Adams' lackluster tunes.

Review: PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL at The Paramount
Kyle Taylor Parker in
Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Paramount.
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Pascal doesn't seem to be sure what part he is playing. One minute he's acting buttoned up and repressed and the next he's acting wild and free. And he is "acting". But not to be outdone is Valli who oversells every line so that none of them are funny or heartfelt anymore. I felt like she took the role of "hooker" too far as she was certainly "faking it". Each time she sang that she'd like to be "Anywhere but Here" I could only agree with her. And let's not forget Jessica Crouch as Vivian's best friend Kit, who seems to have no idea what subtlety is (but then no one in the show does) and whose comedic timing motto is, louder and with bigger pauses.

Parker is amusing in his multiple roles especially when dealing with eager bellhop Giulio (Trent Soyster) but even they fell into that "more is more" trap when mugging each line and facial expression. And I must mention Parker's two big moments of the show, his reprise of "What's Your Dream" at the beginning of Act Two and his big dance number with the hotel staff including Soyster. Both numbers are completely superfluous, stop the story dead in its tracks, and have no business in this show. And yet, were the more entertaining moments of an evening that left me wanting less.

This is certainly a movie that should have been left on the screen. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "Pretty Woman: The Musical" a "Big mistake. Big. Huge." of a NAH. They kept asking "what's your dream". And I kept thinking, for the show to be over sooner.

"Pretty Woman: The Musical" plays at the Paramount Theatre through June 12th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.stgpresents.org.



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