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Never Give Up On a Dream – Thespie

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Director: Jerry Mitchell

Of the many shows forced to close by the pandemic Pretty Woman was one of the newest, running for just four weeks and only a fortnight after its opening night. It is now likely to be closed for at least a year and while the musical may have divided the critics, the female cast have reunited for a one-off pay-per-view concert in celebration of the show they have been unable to continue, the film it was based on and musical theatre in general, streaming on the Thespie website from New Year’s Day.

In fully realising the concert’s title – Never Give Up on a Dream – here are eleven songs; some taken directly from the musical’s original score by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance or the original 1990 film; some with a thematic link to being a woman or those created by the same writing team. Some songs are expended with autobiographical insights as the cast share personal stories to accompany numbers from Ghost, Wicked, We Will Rock You and Beautiful revealing the hidden dramas of being a musical theatre performer.

Led by Aimie Atkinson as Pretty Woman’s lead Vivienne along with Rachael Wooding as her best friend Kit, this 55-minute concert includes three songs from the musical including Anywhere But Here performed first by Atkinson with a piano backing played by Gareth Weedon while the show concludes with Atkinson’s big finale solo I Can’t Go Back about tasting a new world, before the full group unite for Never Give Up on a Dream to close the show.

Before handing over to other members of the Pretty Woman cast, Atkinson and film superfan Wooding deliver a duet of It Must Have Been Love in honour of the movie’s original soundtrack. Wooding in particular captures the rock heart and range of Roxette’s well-known number with Atkinson supporting the softer contrasts when their voices mix. Their duet of Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves is less successful however, and although the pair hit all the right notes, the song requires the soar rasp of Adams’ vocal to counteract its sugary nature.

Never Give Up On a Dream proves an important showcase for fellow performers Jemma Alexander, Hannah Ducharme, Serina Mathew, Joanna Woodward and Charlotte Yorke who play the secondary roles and swing in Pretty Woman. Woodward delivers a soulful version of You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman from Beautiful in which she appeared, while Alexander openly shares an anecdote about forgetting the lyrics to a major song during a performance of Wicked which she goes on to sing alongside Yorke. Meanwhile Wooding’s With You from Ghost offer a real moment of pause, eliciting the number’s sad and tender notes with meaning, while Bob Harms provides the only male voice in Who Can I Turn To?, an unashamedly romantic crooner number against an orchestral backing track.

This concert, performed in a stately looking hotel function room with tones of white and gold that complement the exclusively red dresses of the performers, feels like a celebration not just of a show the cast have been unable to perform since March, but also of each other, supporting and cheering on their respective talents. An ‘interval’ adds a little variety by revealing everything the cast miss about the theatre from feeling the audience response in the room to the anticipation building before curtain-up, something each hopes that 2021 will bring them before too long.

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