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With Broadway's recent tendency of musical adaptation of film and TV, Pretty Woman: The Musical could very easily have ended up as mediocre and forgettable. However, this could not be further from the truth. Whether or not you are familiar with the movie, I ensure you that you would not regret a trip to see this musical.
When I sat down at the Nederlander Theatre to watch this show, I was in no way familiar with the movie. I had only heard vague plot points and was overall hesitant to watch this particular show. The story was not original, I knew nothing of the score and it seemed generic. The only pull for me was the fact that Samantha Barks, known West End-actress, played the female lead.
However, not long into the show I found myself engaged in the story, enjoying almost every song and laughing at all the jokes. The acting was phenomenal, of course by the two leads, Samantha Barks and Andy Karl. But special credits should be given to Orfeh, playing Kit, the best friend of the leading woman, Vivian Ward. While Orfeh's role was not in any way big, she stole every scene she was in. Her voice was very strong and unique and the friendship she and Barks were able to portray was very believable.
The show tells the story of Vivian Ward, a prostitute working on Hollywood Boulevard, who one day runs into the wealthy Edward Lewis. The relationship between these two develops, as Edward pays Vivian to accompany him throughout the week. It shows the beautiful life transformation of Vivian and her journey from walking the streets of Hollywood Boulevard to dining and dancing at fancy parties.
The story is set over the course of six days. These six days turns out to be very transformational for Vivian.
With it almost being 30 years since the release of the movie which this musical is based on, they did of course have to change this. As I am not familiar with the movie, I cannot speak much about this, but I will say this; the musical was very relevant and felt fitting with the time. With the issue of prostitution being a difficult subject, I found that they found a perfect way to empower these women, whilst not glorifying their situation. Vivian is a character that could very easily have gone wrong, but she is written as a strong and charismatic woman. A theme that carries throughout the musical is the lesson she learns from Kit, that she herself is in charge. She says who, when, and how much. As mentioned, the score of this musical is absolutely beautiful. The standouts from the score would absolutely be the strong and lively end of Act I, "You're Beautiful," as well as Samantha Barks' empowering and mesmerising solo "I Can't Go Back".
While Barks of course carries all the songs she appears in, Andy Karl is also able to show a lot of emotion in his songs. The recurring motif 'freedom' in multiple of his songs is what really connects the two leading roles, and it delivered most beautifully by Karl in the reprise of "Freedom" in the second act.
The set design was not anything spectacular, but it was fitting and did the job. However, I was very pleasantly surprised about the costume design. As with set design, it is not revolutionary in anyway, but the various outfits worn be specifically Samantha Barks were absolutely stunning and truly showed the transformation in a believable way.
While this Broadway season has only just begun, I could see Pretty Woman: The Musical being a strong contender at the 73rd Tony Awards, where Samantha Barks could very well earn a nomination for best performance by a leading actress in a musical and Orfeh for best performance by a featured actress in a musical.
Pretty Woman: The Musical currently has an open run and tickets can be bought here.
The original cast recording is set to be released at September 21, 2018.