Despite mixed reviews, the film PRETTY WOMAN proved to be a crowd pleaser due mainly to the charisma and chemistry of its two leads, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.

Flash forward some 30 years and along comes PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL. Except for a couple of changes, the musical’s book by Garry Marshall (who passed away before the show was completed) and J.F. Lawton adheres closely to the film’s script, even lifting chunks of dialogue verbatim.  Unfortunately, the transition from film to stage did not go as wonderfully as the creators had planned.  Apart from a couple of songs, the score by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance is mostly bland and unmemorable.  Most of the score does little, if anything, to either advance the plot or reveal anything about the characters that they haven’t already expressed.  Some seemed to be created simply to raise the energy of the show by providing a couple of dance numbers but only wound up stopping the plot advancement and character development. The one change that really worked for me was giving one actor several roles including the key role of the Hotel Manager and acknowledging it by his breaking the fourth wall several times to basically say, “Hi, it’s me again!”  The role is named The Happy Man and as played by Kyle Taylor Parker, he is.  Mr. Parker virtually steals the show with his winning smile and warmth.  He sings with a strong, rich voice shaded with a wink and a smile. 

The show’s problems are magnified by the lack of chemistry between Adam Pascal as Edward Lewis and Olivia Valli as Vivian Ward.  Although she has a strong and powerful voice, which she gets to unleash, most notably in the songs “This Is My Life” and “I Can’t Go Back,” they don’t happen until the second act.  Despite Vivian saying she doesn’t belong in the life she is living, she seems very comfortable in it and fits right in.  Although it is partially the script’s fault, a stronger actress would have been able to show more of the inner conflict felt by Vivian and thus make her someone for whom the audience feels compassion and roots for. 

Adam Pascal, although a strong singer and a veteran of several Broadway shows including AIDA and RENT, here is given the harder task of showing the good guy underneath his billionaire businessman’s mask. By making his close associate and friend be a totally slimy lawyer right from the start, it makes one wonder why Edward, who is supposed to have a heart of gold buried deep inside, would ever be friends with such a totally unlikeable person.  Add that to his rather wooden dialogue and lack of chemistry with Ms. Valli.  Mr. Pascal, despite a couple of strong solo songs, has a hard time being anything more than two dimensional.

And speaking of two dimensional, the set, designed by David Rockwell, seems to have been done on a severely reduced budget.  Several stylized palm trees and a few door and window frames don’t go far enough to show the extreme wealth of Edward’s world compared to Vivian’s.  Perhaps part of that set budget went to the sumptuous costumes designed by Gregg Barnes which, in many cases, were faithful copies of the outfits worn by Julia Roberts in the film and were every bit as chic and rich looking.

It’s not that PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL is terrible, it isn’t.  Jerry Mitchell, the director and choreographer, is too talented to allow that to happen. But it is also not a very good musical.  Okay and bland are two adjectives that come to mind.  But I kept getting the feeling that it could have been so much more had it broken free from the film’s script a little more than it did and had managed to recreate the magical chemistry that existed between Gere and Roberts.

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL is playing at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood now through July 3, 2022, then from Jul 5 – 17, 2022 at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa.