Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
Pretty Woman: The Musical
Pretty Woman follows the story of Vivian, a slightly kooky but good-natured prostitute in Hollywood, circa 1989. She's hired by Edward Lewis, an extremely wealthy businessman, to be his escort for a number of social and business functions over the upcoming week. Despite attempts by both to avoid romantic (though not physical) entanglements, circumstances and chemistry lead them to a different end result.
The musical is based on the popular 1990 movie of the same name. It boasts a book by the film screenwriter J.F. Lawson and the late Garry Marshall, who directed the movie. As a result, the musical is very faithful to the source material, and includes some dialogue verbatim (which is both a pro and a con). There are points where the storytelling is a bit creaky and predictable, but the tale is also communicated very clearly and with the necessary pathos to keep one invested.
The score is by '80s/'90s hit makers Bryan Adams and Jim Valiance. Though encompassing a number of musical styles, the tunes for many of the songs accurately capture the pop and rock feel of the period (intentionally or not). The lyrics are generally adequate, though overly simplistic at times by contemporary theater standards. The opening number "Welcome to Hollywood" appropriately establishes the time and place, and introduces the main characters. There are a few songs that feel like they could have been big hits in the late '80s, including "You and I." Other score highlights include "Luckiest Girl in the World" and "You're Beautiful."
The cast of the current tour of Pretty Woman boasts a well-known leading man in Adam Pascal, seen here previously in Rent and Something Rotten. Mr. Pascal was a replacement Edward during the short-lived Broadway run, and his rocker vocals are a great fit for the material. He possesses the requisite charm and stage presence for the role and provides sufficient acting chops. Olivia Valli isn't nearly as well known, but she holds her own as Vivian. Ms. Valli captures the essence of the appropriately gawky yet endearing hooker with a heart of gold. She's quite charismatic, displays first-rate singing vocals, and gains the needed empathy from the audience. Jessica Crouch shows off strong vocals as Vivian's prostitute friend Kit, and Kyle Taylor Parker is a tour-de-force as the "Happy Man," the show's narrator who pops up in various roles throughout. Each cast member demonstrates multi-dimensional skills and energetic effort.
Jerry Mitchell serves as director and choreographer for this tour, as he did for the Broadway production. The action flows well, with smooth transitions and apt blocking. There are a few flourishes of inventiveness, including an especially fun one towards the end of the musical. Some of the dances amusingly borrow from familiar '80s/'90s moves. Daniel Klintworth leads a great-sounding six-piece band.
The design team boasts some of the best in the business. David Rockwell's scenic design is handsome and successfully conveys the various settings through a variety of set pieces and props. The costumes by Gregg Barnes capture the time period, are attractive, and align with the iconic outfits from the film. The lighting by Kenneth Posner and Phillip S. Rosenberg includes many interesting backlighting effects (creating silhouettes of the performers) and is skillfully rendered. There were a number of issues in the execution of the sound on opening night.
The 2021/2022 Broadway season in Cincinnati is a strong one. While Pretty Woman: The Musical isn't theatrical royalty like Hamilton, Wicked, and My Fair Lady, and isn't as strong of an adaptation of a film as Hairspray or The Band's Visit, it's an audience-friendly, pleasant musical which is a fine way to reopen our touring season.
Pretty Woman runs through October 31, 2021, at the Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati OH. For tickets and information, call 513-621-2787 or visit cincinnati.broadway.com. For more information on the tour, visit tour.prettywomanthemusical.com.