Pretty Woman The Musical – New Theatre, Oxford

Reviewer: Simon Tavener

Book: Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton

Music and Lyrics: Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance

Director: Jerry Mitchell

There is nothing wrong, in principle with adapting films into stage musicals. In order to succeed they should seek to preserve the essence of the original whilst adding a memorable set of songs that will stay with audience members long after they leave the theatre. Pretty Woman, judging by the positive audience reaction, satisfies the first of these conditions but it fails as a piece of musical theatre due to the bland and instantly forgettable songs that make up the score.

Bryan Adams has written many great soft rock hits throughout his long career. But in putting together the songs for this musical, he has not found a single melody or riff that lingers in the mind. It feels utterly generic from start to finish. The book is equally lacking being devoid of any real emotional depth.

Thankfully the cast and the production are much stronger than the material with which they are given to work. Amber Davies and Oliver Savile as the central pairing of Vivian and Edward both possess strong voices that suit the soft rock music that they are asked to sing. Whilst the songs themselves are not memorable, their vocals soar where needed and blend well together. They make an engaging partnership that does much to carry the show.

Special mention must go to two performers who have stepped in to cover two key supporting characters. Curtis Patrick makes a very strong impression as Mr Happy in his many differing guises. He has a command of the stage and a natural flair for character comedy. Annell Odartey also seizes her moment as Kit with a powerful voice that rightly demands to be heard.

In many ways, the production is almost stolen by Noah Harrison in the role of Giulio the hotel bellhop. His charm and comic timing combine with his natural sparkle to deliver a number of scene-stealing cameo moments.

The ensemble delivers with committed dances and some strong choral moments. Together the cast works well going above and beyond what is asked of them by the script and the score.

Pretty Woman still has the power to attract audiences based on the love for the original film and it does deliver in terms of being undemanding entertainment. There is nothing wrong with that. However, this is very much a four-star performance of a two-star show. Audiences do deserve better.

Runs until 9 December 2023 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Great performances. Poor score.

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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