Review: Bubbly 'Pretty Women: The Musical' Has Few Surprises

by Will Demers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday October 13, 2021

Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli in "Pretty Woman" (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli in "Pretty Woman" (Photo: Matthew Murphy)  

A significant thing is happening this week in Providence: Broadway theater has returned after eighteen months in the form of the National Tour for "Pretty Woman: The Musical" that stars a pretty recognizable star, Adam Pascal. Best-known for "RENT," he joins cast members at the Providence Performing Arts Center for a limited run, having previously played its lead on Broadway in 2019.

No need to remind audiences that "Woman" is a retooling of a 1990 Disney produced romantic comedy; attendees will know the ending if they've seen the successful (one of the highest grossing films that year) film. Here, Pascal steps into the tailored suit of the Richard Gere character, Edward Lewis, and is flanked by Olivia Valli filling the dress of the titular Julia Roberts role. It's a bubbly production, polished and fun, but with little surprises.

Vivian Ward (Valli) is a prostitute, working Hollywood Boulevard with bestie Kit (Jessica Crouch, loud and brash) and finding the next john to pay their rent. (In the film, Kit was buying drugs with their rent money; here, it's shots at a club.) Needing $300 to stave off eviction, Viv meets Edward just in the nick of time, as he's a billionaire, recently single, and needing an attractive girl as arm candy for his one-week stay in California. Ed's a corporate raider (a high powered '80s concept, indeed), and pays her to accompany him to a myriad of social functions so that he's not completely alone.

Reluctantly, she agrees and lays down her call-girl laws right away; kissing on the mouth is the big no-no for her, among other things. Checking into the Beverly Wilshire hotel, we meet a character billed as "Happy Man" (Kyle Taylor Parker, an absolute highlight of this production; he plays the hotel manager among several other roles). He's constantly accompanied by a bellboy, Giulio (Matthew Vincent Taylor, another delight), whose job is to see to the needs of the guests, but never "judge" their behavior. 

The musical has fairly solid roots, as the book was penned by the original screenplay writer J.F. Lawton and late director and producer Garry Marshall. Canadian musicians Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance wrote the music and lyrics. While there are a few catchy tunes in there, most aren't memorable. Certainly Viv's showstopper "This is My Life," and Edward's, "Something About Her," may be easily the most recognizable of the lot, but the rest are lighter, filler fare. The choreography works, with most of the supporting cast strutting their stuff in support of each tune. 

Valli is a most competent Viv; she has the look, arriving in the same outfit and blonde wig as Roberts in the film, and her succession of upgraded looks mirror the fashion of the late '80s, which adds to the fun of the costuming. Pascal arrived in the first act looking a bit wooden, but he easily hit his stride by the second act. His voice is a perfect one for the rock and roll-themed soundtrack, and Valli's solid singing voice complement his. Their journey, while predictable, is a fun one to watch, and as J.L. Lynn Singleton, President and CEO of PPAC, said at the start of the show, a return to live theatre in Providence is a "monumental" thing indeed. 


"Pretty Woman: The Musical" is running through October 16th at The Providence Performing arts Center (PPAC) 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI 02903. For information or tickets call 401-421-2787 or visit www.ppacri.org.

For upcoming dates in the National tour, follow this link.