Theatre

Pretty Woman The Musical at Leeds Grand Theatre Review

DISCLOSURE – TICKETS TO SEE THE SHOW WERE GIFTED TO THE REVIEWER AND GUEST FOR THE PURPOSES OF WRITING THE REVIEW

Reviewed by Kat Harrison

Pretty Woman is an iconic film for someone who hit their teenage years in the ‘90s. I was certainly intrigued to see this international smash-hit that paid an important part in my youth, transformed into a musical.

But it wasn’t just the familiar storyline that made this show a must-see for me. I’m due to see Canadian Rocker Bryan Adams in concert in June. For my eighth time! So a musical featuring original music and lyrics by said Grammy Award winner, wasn’t going to pass me by!

Whilst not ground breaking, Pretty Woman the Musical is entertaining. It’s an easy watch and offers an enjoyable escapist experience. It translates the film to stage somewhat faithfully and how that sits with the audience will be entirely personal. For me, it was a fun night of nostalgia that allowed me to reminisce some of the instantly recognisable outfits and memorable scenes from the film (most notably, Vivian’s shopping experience on Rodeo Drive).

Based on the movie that made Julia Roberts a superstar, Pretty Woman transports us back to the late 1980s and to LA’s Hollywood Boulevard.

On paper, (intentional Love Island reference there), the story shouldn’t be appealing; rich businessman Edward (Oliver Savile) offers Hooker Vivian (Amber Davies) $3,000 to be his companion for the week. It feels a little bit dirty but the 1990 film became one of the most successful romantic comedies ever and catapulted Julia Roberts to superstardom, so I was eager to see how it’s been translated for the world of musical theatre.

Vivian and Edward intend to keep their arrangement purely business based but (and it is a romantic comedy after all) they find themselves falling in love…

Stepping into the shoes of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere must be a daunting task, as is the re-telling of such a much-loved film. But, they manage it.

I really didn’t know what to expect of Amber Davies as my knowledge of her is limited to her bikini clad time on Love Island. But she does have a good voice and yes, she can act. Amber is certainly charming as Vivian and manages to portray the character’s unusual combination of both naivety and streetwise sass. Amber’s Vivian is playful, with more goof than grit. She certainly made the Hooker likeable but I’d love her to add more weight to the character. I believe she’s truly capable of showing a harder side to Vivian. Amber captures the fun but I wanted to see more of the resilient side to this strong woman. But maybe I’m asking her to emulate Julia Roberts when I should be congratulating her for making the character her own. That’s the issue with these big screen conversions.

Amber impressively tackles some pretty high and long notes, she can certainly hold a powerful tune and her renditions successfully soared.

My favourite singer in the show though, has to be Oliver Savile, as the suave Edward. His voice is as smooth as his character and his soft, silky tones were the perfect match for the ballads he performed. But were Oliver and Amber equally well-paired? I’m not sure I witnessed any convincing chemistry but at the same time, they did complement each other. For me, and almost in keeping with the storyline, their on-stage relationship remained business like. They didn’t quite nail the the essence of falling madly in love, it was more heart warming than heart stopping. But Oliver’s overall performance did leave me really wanting to see him in something else, something he can really get his teeth and his vocal cords stuck into.

I must big-up Natalie Paris who portrayed Vivian’s friend Kit – her outstanding vocals more than stood up to the strong guitar-riffs that accompanied her solos. Natalie had enough of that grit I wanted, to maybe dole a little out to Amber.

Whilst his vocals don’t quite match the standard of the other leads, Ore Oduba who played both Happy Man and Hotel Manager Mr Thompson (as well as comically popping up as several other minor characters) did put his Strictly credentials to work with plenty of dazzling dance moves. Whilst his stage presence and general likability helped hold the story together, I did feel at times the dance scenes were purely in there as people pleasers, continually referencing the celebrity’s time on the popular dance show.

The choreography as a whole felt rather clunky; the ensemble too big for the show. It almost felt like the dancers were crammed on the stage and they were used in scenes simply because they were there. The act where Vivian and Edward go to the opera is quite touching and personal, and the addition of dancers, I guess meant to set the scene, was just distracting.

Whilst I enjoyed the action on the stage, the direction didn’t quite hit the mark and felt a little amateur compared to other shows I’d put in the same bracket. I felt there were times the Actors appeared to be merely just stood on stage waiting to deliver their next line. The set was minimal and the characters were left walking round the stage to indicate the leaving of a room, leaving me a little bit dizzy.

As a musical, the whole audience were there for the Roy Orbison hit ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ but it barely features in the show. It accompanies the final bows rather than a scene in the story. The audience’s need to hear it is acknowledged half way through when Ore addresses them and tells them it’s coming. This only stresses the need for it to be featured more heavily.

The musical instead features original songs from Bryan Adams and his co-writer Jim Vallance. Now, I’m a big Bryan fan but none of these are hugely memorable but like many of his songs, the lyrics do successfully tell a story, in fact they’re pretty on the nose when it comes to detailing emotion. The tunes are both perfectly enjoyable in the context of what’s happening on stage and I’d consider them ‘growers’ – I’ll happily listen to the soundtrack and after a few plays, I’ll likely be singing along.

The score is certainly influenced by late-80s and early-90s rock and pop and is very guitar led. Bryan can pull off a ballad as well as he can a more upbeat number, and this was reflected in the efforts of the cast.

Like Vivian, you could say that Pretty Woman The Musical has its flaws, but as with the character, this doesn’t make it any less likeable. At its centre, it’s a story about finding love and whilst it’s not the best musical out there, Pretty Woman offers a night out that will lift your spirits and put a smile on your face.

Pretty Woman: The Musical is on at Leeds Grand Theatre until Saturday 25th May as part of its first UK and Ireland tour.

Leeds Grand Theatre, built in 1878 by architect George Corson is a fantastic piece of Victorian design; famed for its sumptuous interior, plasterwork and other decorative features. Right in the heart of the city centre with excellent transport links, this theatre, home to performances of all types, is well worth a visit.

Rating: 3/5

Tickets priced £55-£30 and available @
https://leedsheritagetheatres.com/whats-on/pretty-woman-2024/

Find out more about the show and see all the tour venues and dates @
https://uk.prettywomanthemusical.com

Box Office – 0113 243 0808

 

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