Oscar E Moore

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PRETTY WOMAN the musical – finding some pleasure with a prostitute

August 24th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore



In happily-ever-after neon lit Hollywood, circa late 1980’s just about anything plausible and implausible can happen, especially in a musical, from this unique perspective – looking down from high above and behind the famous HOLLYWOOD sign, part of the sparse but effective set design by David Rockwell, in this adaptation of the extremely popular 1990 romantic-comedy movie PRETTY WOMAN, best known for its stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere and its most popular theme song “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison & Bill Dees, which for whatever reasons has been jettisoned in lieu of a mediocre and odd pop-rock/country western musical score by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance that is ear-deafening bombastic (credit John Shivers, appropriately named) from its onset to its happily-ever-after ending some two and a half hours later at the Nederlander Theatre.  One intermission.

After some deep and intensive research I have discovered that the musical covers almost verbatim the plot of the movie, with famous scenes intact as originally created by J.F. Lawton and directed by the late Garry Marshall who had co-authored the book for this current production with Mr. Lawton before his demise in 2016.

I am probably one of the only members of this sold-out audience of mostly women of a certain age (there were many canes and walkers in evidence) who has never seen the film.  And so I can’t compare.  Are all these women hoping once again to be bewitched and saved by the swaggering, money focused corporate raider Edward Lewis now played by the charming and hunky Andy Karl who has inherited the role from the charming and hunky Richard Gere…

Now Andy Karl is a man with a monumental talent.  But he does not get to use about 90 % of it until late in this production.  He appears, as the part requires, to be a successful stuffed shirt waiting to explode.  To find his “freedom” in a series of forlorn ballads that do not suit the character at all.  In fact his suit does not suit the character unless it is purposefully confining.  But I digress.

Gregg Barnes has once again come up with some knockout costumes especially for the very pretty Vivian.  Her infamous “red gown” as she goes off with Edward to hear La Traviata wears well.  This sequence is also a stand out with Allison Blackwell and Matt Farcher brilliantly voicing Violetta and Alfredo respectively.

Edward has come to Hollywood to close a deal and accidentally meets up with prostitute Vivian Ward (Samantha Barks – also appropriately named as she belts out in her best American Idol mode her 11 o’clock number ”I Can’t Go Back” holding the last money note for all it’s worth.  But I digress.

He winds up hiring her for a week of companionship and in the process, with the magical use of his unlimited credit card, she lives out her fantasy and he unexpectedly loosens up, but not before a few well directed foreplay sex scenes where the lights dim at just the right moment.  Despite this they have very little chemistry percolating between them.

The story is actually two stories:  A – the hookers of Hollywood and their dreams led by the fabulous Orfeh who takes command of the stage as only a charismatic star, with wit and powerhouse vocals can – and B – the Cinderella/Pygmalion saga of Vivian and Edward.  Because storyline A is more entertaining allowing director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell to break out in dance more often it almost, but not quite, takes over the more important B storyline.

Although Mr. Mitchell does come up with a rather odd teaching-Vivian-to-dance routine by using the Manager of the Beverly Wilshire’s Mr. Thompson as instructor (a terrific and memorable performance by Eric Anderson who also portrays our Hollywood narrator Happy Man – his transition from one character to another is a highlight) with another standout performance by Tommy Bracco (Giulio, a Bellhop) who the audience rightfully adores.

PRETTY WOMAN is at times pleasurable at best.  With some fine performers having to plod through a very mediocre and much too loud score.  Proceed with caution.


Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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