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“Uplifting and glamorous” – Reviewing Pretty Woman at Hull New Theatre

Pretty Woman (1990) is a much-loved ‘chick flick’ starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. It’s so special in most women’s hearts. So how would this masterpiece transfer to the stage? I was fortunate enough to be invited to Hull New Theatre this week to find out. With music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and based on the book by Garry Marshall and J F Lawton, I was keen to find out how the musical would fare.  

It is the story of rich man Edward, (Ben Darcy) who meets working girl Vivian (Sydnie Hocknell) in LA as he is driving around, very badly in his friend’s Lotus. Thinking he is lost; he pulls over for directions and meets Vivian who gives him a lesson in driving the vehicle and takes him back to his hotel.  She’s been brought up with car crazy folk so she’s knowledgeable and tough. Unlike any girl that Edward has ever met before, he is intrigued by her and offers her a job as his escort whilst he is in town for the week.  It’s great pay and Vivian can’t resist the paycheck.  Little does either character know how much their lives will be transformed in unexpected ways. 

He is staying at the best hotel in town The Beverly Wilshire, which Vivian would never normally get near.  Edward is her ticket in. The gatekeeper of the hotel is the charismatic and kind, but stern Mr Thompson (Curtis Patrick) whose all-seeing eyes, recognise the growth of Vivian’s character and her closeness to Edward.  He becomes a helpful advisor to her and Patrick’s presence on stage is warm and wholesome.  He also has some great fun moments bringing his character to life.

Vivian wants to give her best pal, Kit de Luca (Natalie Paris) some money to pay the rent which is overdue and calls her to the hotel.  They meet but Kit looks far from the hotel’s usual clientele. The coarseness of Kit grates against the growing ‘class’ of Vivian in this scene. Two worlds collide.

There’s glitz and glamour as Vivian shops on Rodeo Drive for suitable clothes to be seen out and about with Edward.  The snobby shop worker who clearly has not heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, clearly miscalculates sending our heroine away, just as it was in the movie.  Mr Thompson helps her, and she obtains a classy outfit.

As the musical continues, Edward realises he has feelings for Vivian and at the end of the week offers her a condo to live in and he’ll visit when in town. Vivian wants the dream. She says no. If you have seen the movie, you know the rest.

There was some great singing and slick dancing from the ensemble who are all multi-talented.  The scene changes were swift and the scenery painted the perfect setting without being too complicated.  Songs came thick and fast and although I didn’t recognise many, they were ok, they moved the story on.  

For me though, the best character in the whole production was Giulio (Noah Harrison) whose comic timing, facial expressions, and mime were superb.  He intertwined most of the scenes in the hotel and raised laughter and applause each time he was on stage.  His dancing with Mr Thompson was fast and fun and he got an especially big cheer at the curtain call.

So, did Pretty Woman the musical live up to the movie?  Yes and No.  I will always prefer the movie but the musical was very watchable and uplifting. It had great moments in and the music and dancing did enhance the story. Would I recommend the show? Definitely. It was fun. It was bright and colourful and the packed audience all left happy.

Don’t miss it at Hull New Theatre this week, until 10th February!

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