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Review: Pretty Woman - The Musical (UK & Ireland Tour)

Review by Daz Gale


Musicals based on classic movies are a growing trend at the moment, with no shortage of them both in the West End and touring the UK & Ireland. One of the most popular is Pretty Woman, based on the huge romantic comedy, which swiftly followed its successful West End stint by taking the show on the road. I've seen the show before both in the West End and on Broadway and had wildly different reactions each time, but with an exciting cast on board, would I fall in love or would I deem my trip to Milton Keynes to catch it a big mistake?

Based on the iconic 1990 movie starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, the musical adaptation of Pretty Woman premiered on Broadway in 2018 and made its way to the West End in February 2020... perhaps not the best timing but it continued playing to adoring audiences until last year. It tells the story of businessman Edward Lewis who hires Hollywood sex worker Vivian Ward for the night but finds his life changed forever. Can the unlikely pair from vastly different worlds find common ground and get a fairytale ending?

Written by Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton who was the original team responsible for the movie, this stage adaptation doesn't stray far from the source material, recreating all of the iconic, fan favourite, and instantly quotable moments from the movie. It effortlessly adapts this for the stage through some smart choices and updates several lines and moments that perhaps didn't age as well including one inspired moment allowing Vivian to be her own hero. One of the more faithful stage adaptations from classic movies due to the team involved, this is still a story that makes you smile and fills you with nostalgia several decades later.

Adding original music to a well-loved story is a risky move - they need to be able to push the story forward without feeling shoehorned in and blend with existing dialogue that is immortalised in pop culture. Luckily Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance more than rose to the occasion here, filling Pretty Woman with a smattering of instant classics. Early number 'Anywhere But Here' sets the tone and the standard perfectly with 'This Is My Life" and the joyfully rousing 'Never Give Up On A Dream' highlights. The standout number belongs to Vivian's big act 2 solo 'I Can't Go Back' - powerful and impactful, it packs a punch in the strongest moment in the show. And if you're wondering, 'Oh, Pretty Woman' does make an appearance eventually.

The legendary Jerry Mitchell works his magic with top-quality direction that manages to counter the rare moments in the show that don't land as much, with his choreography ensuring the sequences are always visually stimulating, both on the larger group numbers and the more intimate dance sequences. David Rockwells scenic design transports us to Rodeo Drive with neon and colour, though on this occasion some of the lighting choices didn't work as well, letting the visual aspect down. This was however redeemed somewhat by gorgeous costume design from Tom Rogers gloriously recreating the iconic outfits from the movie while having fun with some new creations

Stepping into the heels of Vivian Ward, following in the huge footsteps of Julia Roberts from the movie as well as Samantha Barks and Aimie Atkinson from the previous stage productions is Amber Davies. Fast making a name for herself in musical theatre after some acclaimed supporting roles in Back To The Future and 9 to 5, she proves what a force she is as a leading lady, oozing charm and compassion in the complex but instantly loveable Vivian. Lighting up the stage throughout, it's her vocal ability that truly shines through, wowing with vulnerabilities and power on her multiple big solo numbers.

Oliver Savile gives a suave portrayal of Edward Lewis, leaving nobody wondering why Vivian would fall in love with him. Getting his own moments to shine vocally on 'Freedom' and 'Something About Her', he consistently delights and shows great chemistry with Amber. Natalie Paris is drastically underused but always scene-stealing in her turn as Kit de Luca. Loud and brash, she thrills at each opportunity with some powerhouse vocals that seemingly know no limits.

Ore Oduba may not have as strong vocals as the other main characters but they more than make up for it with charisma as Happy Man/Mr Thompson. Showcasing his fantastic dancing ability with a couple of nods to Strictly Come Dancing thrown in, he lives up to his character's name, eliciting happiness at every turn. A standout among the supporting cast is Noah Harrison as Giulio, the overly enthusiastic bellboy at the hotel who gets some of the best moments in the show despite being a man of very few words.

Pretty Woman isn't perfect by a long shot. It may not be the deepest or best musical out there at the moment but sometimes all you want from a night at the theatre is pure escapism and the chance to forget life's troubles and lose yourself in a cheesy and charming show. In that respect, Pretty Woman delivers in spades. The classic story is given a fresh aspect thanks to some stunning new songs, and with a sensational cast at the helm, there is plenty to love here and give you an amazing night out. It would be a big mistake to miss it. Huge!

Pretty Woman tours the UK until September 2024, playing at Milton Keynes Theatre at the moment.

Photos by Marc Brenner


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