Big Mistake. Huge. Pretty Woman: The Musical Has Little of the Movies Magic.

Big Mistake. Huge. Pretty Woman: The Musical Has Little of the Movies Magic.

September 13, 2018 | More from TrumpTrending | Tags: , , ,

Big Mistake. Huge. Pretty Woman: The Musical Has Little of the Movies Magic.

Heading to Pretty Woman: The Musical on Broadway, you may be thinking: when will I hear those delicious opening chords of Roy Orbisons hit song?

Brutal answer: you wont. There is none of the original music from the film, apart from a bit of La Traviata. Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance have composed the music and lyrics for the show, and if you liked Bryan Adams at his most 90s Bryan Adams-ythe plaintive wailing, the dirgey rock, the insistent twanging of guitarsthen youll love this.

The song titles drone it all: Anywhere But Here, Luckiest Girl in the World, Never Give Up on a Dream, I Cant Go Back.

Story-wise, having been so thoroughly denied Orbison, you may be thinking: how will they do those famous scenes from the 1990 movie starring Julia Roberts as Vivian and Richard Gere as Edward, an especially tantalizing prospect as the program plays with the movie poster of Roberts in her hooker gear playfully tugging at Geres businessmans tie?

The Broadway program, by contrast, has Vivian in the red dress she wears to the opera, tugging on the same tie, faces obscured. It says a lot: Pretty Woman is a cultural artifact made of familiar symbols. Who needs faces when its fans know its totems so well?

More cynically, perhaps you dont want to remind those coming to the musical that they are not seeing Roberts and Gere, but rather Samantha Barks and Andy Karl who would be forgiven for feeling a little peeved not having their faces on the program.

You may well wonder how the musical will deal with the films candy-coating of prostitution, its sexual and cultural politics, and the fairytale it spins out of financial need and male lack.

But the fans have come for familiarity rather than gnarly late-capitalism gender politicstruly, you can hear the flurries of anticipation as key scenes approach.

The musical promises familiarity too. Youre waiting to hear: You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Big. Huge!

Youre waiting for Richard Gere to clamp down the jewelry box lid on Julia Roberts be-gloved fingers, and her shriek of surprised laughter.

Youre thinking of Vivian in the bubble bath listening on her Walkman and singing along to Princes Kiss in the bathtub: I just want your extra time and your *squeal* kiss.

Prepare for disappointment, Pretty Woman fans, because somehow the musical manages to screw up all these key moments from the movie, and screw them up badly

Youre thinking that final scene with Gere nervously ascending the fire-ladder to Roberts scuzzy, soon-to-be-forsaken apartment, of them reuniting; of him saving her and her saving him right back, all to the strains of La Traviata.

Prepare for disappointment, Pretty Woman fans, because somehow the musical manages to screw up all these key moments from the movie (why couldnt Vivian even be singing Kiss?), and screw them up badly.

It doesnt screw them up in the service of doing something new with them, or in service to any kind of originality. It simply does shoddy-feeling re-enactments of the bits of Pretty Woman that fans of the movie have come to see. Those fans cheered the musical mightily at the show I attended, but perhaps more at a competent execution of an imitationand the musical is not a disasterrather than a bravura reimagining.

The star of the show is not a listed star of the show. As the audience reaction rightly reflects at the end, the fabulous Tommy Bracco, criminally not listed on the main cast page, audaciously steals this bizarre enterprise playing a bellhop called Giulio.

Giulio doesnt say much, but he dances and mugs up a beautiful storm. Bracco looks like hes having the time of his life. Wait to hear that roar at the end. Barks and Karl may be feeling pretty weird about that too.

Its particular fun to watch Bracco when he and the excellent Eric Anderson as benevolent concierge Mr. Thompson (occupying Hector Elizondos film role) strike up a ballroom dancing lesson for Vivian, featuring all the men in the company. (Anderson also plays Happy Guy, the character at the beginning and end of the film intoning about Hollywood and dreams.)

This standout slice of choreography by Jerry Mitchell, who also directs the show, is brave: it defies the audience to laugh at it for being gay, and then stuns us with the thrilling footwork of Bracco and Thompson.

Whether the characters are lovers or just simpatico colleagues is a lovely side mystery the musical lightly teases and never patronizes or cheapens.

The oddest thing about Pretty Woman is that it does all the things it needs to do badly, and the rare moments it skis off-piste away from the movies central storyline are done so well. Such moments are rare and Bracco, the shows breakout star, features in every onehence the deserved audience acclaim he and Thompson receive at the curtain call.

Another lovely scene is the opera scene, when Edward takes Vivian to see La Traviata. The musical deftly produces an opera box and a swirl of characters (Allison Blackwell singing Violetta all too briefly and beautifully)until, gah, stop it, those arias are mixed hideously into Adams rock arrangement.

David Rockwells design is not sumptuous, and part of the films pleasure was visual; it was its own bubble bath. Here, there are odd bits of scaffold (crap apartment), prostitution area (neon signs), and fancy hotel (arches, slice of balcony). Areas that are not these places are a sliver at the front of the stage.

Far more effective is Kenneth Posner and Philip S. Rosenbergs many-colored back-of-stage lighting, which serves as a background for dancers to be silhouetted against, and which endows Los Angeles with a seductively inky night.

Particularly enraging is the shopping scene. The setup is familiar. Edward elicits one shop to treat Vivian like a retail queen with the promise of an obscene amount of money spent on the premises. When she strikes off on her own on Rodeo Drive, two snooty sales assistants sneer her out of their shop.

For Armanis sake, if youre going to mount Pretty Woman as a musical, the one thing you dont screw up is the shopping scene.

Following her makeover, Vivian returns to exact her revenge: they work on commission, well bad luck them. Now Vivian has to go shopping.

In the movie, its a delicious momentif you can suspend your distaste at Pretty Womans cultural politicswhile in the stage musical, Barks swallows her moment of victory, the script gallops past itself, and its done.

For Armanis sake, if youre going to mount Pretty Woman as a musical, the one thing you dont screw up is the shopping scene.

Barks, it should be said, sings beautifully and brings as much depth, mischief, and assertion to Vivian, no matter how confusedly she is written (by men, Garry Marshall, who directed the movie, and the films screenwriter J.F. Lawton).

Vivian is painted as a good prostitute. She doesnt kiss. She always has condoms. She even tells us that she sells her body, not her soul. Her best friend Kit (in the film played by Laura San Giacomo, and in the stage musical by Orfeh, Andy Karls wife) even tells her she never belonged on the streets. She seems down to earth, then gets taken away by all the money, then isnt, then wants independence, then wants love, then wants everything, the fairytale, as the men write it for her.

Good news: The red dress, worn at the opera, is just as stunning on stage as on screen. The audience gasped happily on seeing it.

Vivians clothing charts this progression. But the supposedly slutty streetwear of 1990 (crop top hoop-linked to short skirt), complete with the patent high-heeled boots, now look like conventional street fashion.

The dresses in one song about Rodeo Drive, worn by supposedly rich, smart women, look cheap. The beautiful brown polka dot dress in the polo scene worn by Roberts becomes a wan, navy one in the musical. Good news: The red dress, worn at the opera, is just as stunning on stage as on screen. The audience gasped happily on seeing it.

Vivians journey to leaving prostitution behind is signaled by all the white she ends up wearing, starting with Edwards work shirt and ending in a Melania Trump-style pantsuit.

In Pretty Woman, the only gritty reminder of prostitution is the unseen dead body of Skinny Marie. Everyone looks on with distaste, rather than sadness, at her demise.

Kit is meant to be harder than Vivian, but still good. Orfeh screeches her way through the role, and does not embody Kits flinty goodness.

In the musical, Barks sketches the comedy of the showVivian leaving the world of the streets to the plush world of the Beverly Wilshire hotelwith the same wide-eyed earthiness as Roberts affected.

But she and Karl share none of the Roberts-Gere chemistry. Karl plays Edwards granite-tough emotional removal from the world (resulting from major father issues) as his sole characteristic.

Karl doesnt twinkle as Gere did. He allows himself an occasional smile, butwithout the aid of cinematic close-uphe is otherwise an overcast riot of scowls and moody pouting.

Edward seems stiff when everyone else around him is on the move; and even when he loosens up, he doesnt look it.

His song, Freedom (which stretches for many minutes, and which is reprised), is peak Adams and posits again the supposedly equalizing dilemma that Edward faces next to Vivian.

As she says, they both screw people for money, but Edward is emotionally cauterized and this has made him a ruthless businessman apparentlyhappy to pounce on companies, close them down, and swallow them up, but the humanizing effects of meeting Vivian mean he cannot do the same with shipping company owner James Morse (Ezra Knight).

In the film Morse is a sweetly gruff de facto father figure, though on stage Knight isnt given any room to do anything, helping to undermine not just Morse, but also Edwards character journey.

The musical edges around both their back stories, without committing to them, to ratchet our sympathies further. But the film had no interest in the true peril and edginess of both Edward and Vivians situations, and neither does the musical.

With all the things Edward and Vivian cannot do or do not have or feel, the musical tries to produce a comparable rescue fairytale both perform on each other, right down to Edward conquering his fear of heights.

But there is stillon screen and on stageno fairytale resolution to the contrast of Edwards much-spoken wealth and Vivians unspoken poverty, and to who is using and being used.

The musical edges around both their back stories, without committing to them, to ratchet our sympathies further. But the film had no interest in the true peril and edginess of both Edward and Vivians situations, and neither does the musical.

Sure, Edward may be able to gingerly climb a ladder at the end, but his saving of Vivian, his transformation of her life, is far more fundamental than her softening of his big bad capitalist wolf.

The nastiest grit in the pearl is Edwards lawyer, Stuckey (Jason Danieley). He is a villain, Edwards rampant ID with a briefcase, and though Danieley is hugely ill-served in the scriptwith not one song, and he really could use onehe aroused this spectators sympathy.

Hes the horrible truth of the unfettered capitalism the musical bathes in and rejects simultaneously. Hes oddly the most honest character on stage, rejecting all the sugar around him. He's helped make Edward all the money that is the engine of the show.

One intriguing and good departure of musical from film is how Stuckey is finally despatched. The movie stages a violent attack by him on Vivian, saved by a heroic punch from Edward.

The musical is contentedly stuck in the shallowest grooves of its 1990 cinematic image. That doesnt leave much room for poor Karl and Barks to breathe, or cast Edward and Vivian anew.

The musical, welcomingly, imagines a different felling of Stuckey, more attuned to the #MeToo era. Another welcome departure concerns money: in the movie, saintly Vivian leaves it behind on the bed; in the musical, she takes it.

If only the musical had confronted Pretty Womans larger problematic story and politics in the same spirit. But the musical is contentedly stuck in the shallowest grooves of its 1990 cinematic image. That doesnt leave much room for poor Karl and Barks to breathe, or cast Edward and Vivian anew.

Pretty Woman: The Musical is not a disaster. If you loved the film, you wont be in extreme pain watching this. But neither will you be missing much if you give it a swerve. If the show wishes to remain so enslaved to its originaland fine, there are solid commercial reasons to do sothen Marshall should study his own movie again and ape its magic more rigorously. Or, conversely, he could challenge its fragile fairytale.

Whatever, were Team Giulio.

Pretty Woman: The Musical is at the Nederlander Theatre, 208 West 41st Street, New York City, booking through June 9, 2019. Book here.

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