“It truly is a dream come true and the definition of surreal,” says Becca Suskauer, 22, who is an ensemble member and understudies the lead role of Vivian Ward, played by Julia Roberts in the movie of the same name.
Just six months ago, Becca Suskauer was doing hybrid learning as a senior about to graduate from Penn State with a BFA in musical theatre. She was submitting self-taped video auditions online, as is the new pandemic norm for actors, and making challah over Facetime with her mom back in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where Suskauer grew up. For Suskauer, the self-proclaimed “Jewess” will tell you that it’s beshert that she’s cast in the national tour of Pretty Woman: The Musical, one of the first Broadway shows to resume on tour during the pandemic.
“It truly is a dream come true and the definition of surreal,” says Suskauer, 22, who is an ensemble member and understudies the lead role of Vivian Ward, played by Julia Roberts in the movie of the same name.
Pretty Woman: The Musical is based on the ultimate rom-com film classic that starred Roberts and Richard Gere (Adam Pascal plays Gere’s role of Edward Lewis on tour). Its production dream team includes Paula Wagner, Garry Marshall, Jerry Mitchell, Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance and J.F. Lawton. Rehearsals for the tour started in September in New York City. Detroit’s Fisher Theatre will be the third stop from Nov. 2-14.
“It is so cool to look out at the audience from on stage and see every single seat filled with someone who is so excited to be there and to be a part of this shared collective experience. I am so grateful to be a part of bringing theater back,” says Suskauer who also plays Edward’s ex-girlfriend Susan.
Though Suskauer admits that she only saw Pretty Woman the movie for the first time earlier this year, she credits her mother, Michelle Suskauer, a criminal defense attorney, for instilling a love for classic films and musical theater in her two daughters. Becca’s sister, Talia, 25, also graduated from Penn State with a BFA in musical theater and is simultaneously on the national Broadway tour of Wicked, starring as Elphaba.
“My mom is an incredible Jewish woman who is also the past president of the Florida Bar,” says Suskauer, whose dad, Scott Suskauer, is a Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge. “My parents never questioned our dreams and aspirations for musical theater. They continue to support us, which is very validating and not a given for every set of parents.”
Suskauer adds that she comes from a long line of strong Jewish women and Holocaust survivors.
“I think that the character Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman is all about being independent and a survivor, which is what I think is exactly at the core and heart of the Jewish people and, especially, the journey my family has been on,” she says.
Suskauer vividly remembers going on the March of the Living when she was 17 with her grandmother, Rose Rosenkranz, who was born in a Siberian labor camp in 1945. They went to Poland together, visiting the concentration camps and learning about their family history.
“We visited the sites where my ancestors perished, and then we went to Israel to witness the journey of our people through the years and how we are still fighting antisemitism to this day,” says Suskauer, who considers herself an outspoken Jewish activist, especially in the theater community.
“There needs to be more of us in theater to support each other because, more often than not, we can get lost in the shuffle.”
Suskauer says that the March really empowered her as a young, Jewish woman.
“Vivian’s journey in Pretty Woman is that she doesn’t have a traditional lifestyle and it’s OK to reinvent herself,” Suskauer says. “It’s really interesting to me because it’s kind of like my family who, as immigrants, came to this country to reinvent themselves and have a better life. It’s all about not being discriminated against or being judged and owning your power.”
Pretty Woman: The Musical runs Nov. 2-14, at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 West Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tickets start at $39 (includes facility and parking fees) and are now on sale. Tickets can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com, by phone at (800) 982-2787, and in person at the Fisher Theatre Box Office. A limited number of premium seats will be available through Ticketmaster and at the Fisher Theatre Box Office.
Theater patrons will be required to show proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the performance date or proof of full COVID-19 vaccination before they will be admitted into the venue. Additionally, all patrons will be required to wear a mask while inside the theater, regardless of one’s vaccination status.