Saturday, April 13

Pretty Woman – Edinburgh Playhouse

Most of us are familiar with the 1989 film of Pretty Woman, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, directed by Garry Marshall.  For those that aren’t, the narrative is a simple fairy story – millionaire tycoon Edward, visiting Los Angeles on a business trip, stops in Hollywood Boulevard to ask street walker Vivian for directions to the prestigious Beverly Wilshire hotel.  She ends up staying the night.  The following day she is told to kit herself out with some high-end fashion using Edward’s credit card and asked to remain for the rest of the week and accompany him on his various social enterprises.  So far, so Cinderf***ingrella.

Pretty Woman the musical, book by Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton and music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, is a joyous romp which is about as faithful to the film as a musical could be, using much of the familiar dialogue.  The musical numbers are unfamiliar of course, since this is a relatively new musical, but have all the elements of classic pop rock which is both uplifting and easy on the ear.  The two leads are played by Amber Davies as Vivian and Oliver Savile as Edward, both of whom are a delight to listen to, their voices when singing in duet making a melodic and confident partnership.  Savile makes a convincing millionaire businessman and plays the part with humour and heart.  The diminutive Davies makes a warm bubbly hooker but doesn’t quite carry off the transformation into sophisticated woman in elegant gowns.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Ore Oduba as Happy Man and Mr Thompson, the hotel concierge.  Oduba became known to millions as the winner of Strictly Come Dancing, and here he proves himself to be not only a very competent singer but an outstanding entertainer too.  We all know he can dance, and his tango with the hotel bell boy Giulio (Noah Harrison) is more than a nod to Oduba’s Strictly background and one of the highlights of the show.  Talking of Giulio, there was quite a danger of Harrison completely stealing the show in act one.  His goofy, balletic antics and impeccable comic timing proving how a relatively small role can make an immense impact.  Probably the most powerful voice was that of Natalie Paris playing Kit de Luca, Vivian’s friend and flat mate.  Paris gave a ballsy performance, belting out her musical numbers and displaying considerable vocal gymnastics.   Lila Falce-Bass performed an imposing operatic number, showing impressive skill and range.

David Rockwell’s set design worked brilliantly, morphing seamlessly from the brash neon of Hollywood Boulevard into the sophisticated elegance of the Beverly Wilshire, the transfers being undertaken slickly by the ensemble cast.  These simple but imaginative sets were enhanced by Kenneth Posner and Philip S. Rosenberg’s lighting design, providing enchanting effects and creating the mood by use of the cyclorama.  The orchestra, under the direction of Griff Johnson provided a full rich sound with only keyboards, guitars and drums creating upbeat rocky numbers for the most part, and some slower ballads where appropriate.  The whole show zipped along at a pace; Jerry Mitchell’s direction ensuring that it never flagged, although there were tender moments to be enjoyed in addition to Mitchell’s choreography, bringing plenty of vitality and sparkle to the stage.

Anyone who has seen and loved the film, would love this too.  For some reason, I didn’t really expect it to work, but how wrong I was.  I was bowled over by the colour, fun and energy, and have to say I think it’s pretty close to being the perfect feel-good musical.

Pretty Woman plays at the Playhouse, Edinburgh until 13th April.

Reviewer: H.S. Baker

Reviewed: 2nd April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.