Every fairy tale needs a prince and princess, and Olivia Valli and Adam Pascal fill these roles admirably.
Based on the 1990 hit movie of the same name, Pretty Woman: The Musical takes the well-known story to the next level with creative songs by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and imaginative dance numbers by Tony award-winner Jerry Mitchell, who choreographed and directed the show. The book is by Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton, who, respectively, directed and wrote the film.
This modern-day fairy tale revolves around Vivian (Olivia Valli), a sex worker whose life has taken some unfortunate turns and Edward (Adam Pascal), a ruthless businessman who is visiting Los Angeles to close the deal on his latest hostile takeover. After a chance meeting, Edward offers to pay Vivian to serve as his date/companion for the week, and the two strike a deal after some humorous negotiations. What happens next is no surprise to anyone familiar with the movie or any other rags-to-riches, tacky-to-tasteful story a la My Fair Lady and Cinderella.
Every fairy tale needs a prince and princess, and Valli and Pascal fill these roles admirably. Pascal, best known for his leading role as Roger in the hit Broadway musical RENT and the subsequent film adaptation, authentically transforms from callous to caring as he allows Vivian to penetrate his well-guarded façade. His rendition of the song “Freedom” is moving and beautifully sung, as is the duet he shares with Vivian, “Long Way Home.”
Valli, the granddaughter of Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons, has plenty of her own star power as Vivian, who convincingly evolves into a self-confident young woman determined to take charge of her life. Musical numbers “This is My Life” and “I Can’t Go Back” showcase her impressive vocals.
Among the brightest stars of the production is Kyle Taylor Parker, who played multiple roles and lit up the stage in every one. Appearing in the opening scene as the “Happy Man” on Hollywood Boulevard, Parker shifted easily between subsequent roles as hotel manager of the ritzy Beverly Wilshire and the manager of the Rodeo Drive store where Edward brings Vivian for a major shopping spree. He also appears briefly as the orchestra conductor when Edward and Vivian attend the opera, a wonderful scene highlighted by the diva-quality voice of Amma Osei.
Outstanding performances were also provided by Jessica Crouch as Kit, Vivian’s best friend, and Matthew Vincent Taylor as the comical bellhop. The dance numbers are a tribute to Mitchell’s talent as a choreographer, especially “On a Night Like Tonight,” a hilarious tango by the hotel staff members, and “Don’t Forget to Dance” performed by Happy Man and the rest of the Hollywood Boulevard crowd.
This is not a “woke” story, but then, neither are most fairy tales. The characters who hold power are all male, including Edward’s business associates, the hotel manager and the manager of an exclusive Rodeo Drive shop, where Edward exercises his privilege by flashing his credit card and announcing he expects some “major sucking up” as Vivian selects a wardrobe. It is better to ignore any social/cultural implications and simply enjoy this frothy feel-good show…with one caveat. Because the story adheres closely to the movie, those who disliked the film may want to skip this one. On the other hand, if you are among the millions of fans who helped make Pretty Woman a legendary hit, this musical was made for you.
Audience members are required to show proof of vaccination (or negative Covid test results). Masks must be worn at all times inside the theater, regardless of vaccination status. Click here for more information about current Covid-19 protocols for all Broadway in Detroit events.
Pretty Woman: The Musical runs through Sunday, Nov. 14, at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit. Ticket prices start at $39. For tickets or more information, call 313-872-1000 or visit broadwayindetroit.com.