Pretty Woman

Adapting one of the most iconic and loved romcoms of all time into a stage show could have been a big mistake, big, huge…this is not the case for Pretty Woman.

Although staying predominantly faithful to the original plot, J. F. Lawton (who wrote the film’s screenplay) and Garry Marshall (the film’s director), take all the famed lines from the film and, with music and lyrics from Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, add further depth to the characters which was missing from the original.

Stepping into the thigh high boots of Vivian Ward for the Manchester run is Paige Fenlon (who covered the role in the West End). Irrespective of when this decision was made, there was nothing holding Fenlon back. Her characterisation of Vivian had impeccable growth from a naïve sex-worker to an empowered, headstrong lady taking back control of her future. Fenlon’s vocals were flawless and, although inspiration was clearly taken from Julia Roberts’ iconic turn, she made the role her own. The chemistry with best friend Kit de Luca (Natalie Paris) was equally beautiful and hilarious to watch. Paris blew the roof of the theatre with her powerhouse vocals- and I implore you to buy a ticket to hear her alone.

Each of the cast gave it their all. Ben Darcy had the charm of Edward Lewis whilst Ore Oduba was omnipresent throughout- essentially narrating us through the show via his multi-roling between ‘Happy Man’, Mr Thompson and others. Oduba held his own vocally but shone with his ballroom dancing, a great nod to his time on Strictly.

Vocally, Lila Falce-Bass stole the show as opera singer, Violetta, in with what proved to be some of the most stunning vocals I’ve ever heard. Noah Harrison was also a standout in the stellar ensemble as Giulio and, for what he lacked in dialogue, he made up for with comic intelligence and charisma- not one of his artistic choices fell short.

At times, the cast were working incredibly hard to elevate the source material as, although there are some wonderfully catchy songs, there are sadly (yet inevitably) some duds- particularly a couple of Edward’s numbers. Fortunately though, sound design by John Shivers and the orchestrations of Griff Johnson, added dimension to and greatly lifted the flatter moments of the score. Likewise, set design by David Rockwell was strong but inconsistent during some scenes. Hollywood Boulevard was authentically designed and amplified through lighting design by Kenneth Posner and Philip S. Rosenberg, as were scenes in the penthouse; when Vivian was watching TV, the flickering light on her face took me straight back to the film! However, the scene at the opera sadly felt baron compared to the grandeur of the location and relied heavily on the cast to provide the spectacle that just the smallest of additional setting details could have supplied.

Costume design by Tom Rogers stayed true to the original, with slight changes made for quick changes. The gowns shown in ‘Rodeo Drive’ were stunning and took the audience right back to the 80s. Vivian’s iconic looks (from her working-attire to her stunning red gown at the opera that we all know and love from the film) all come to life beautifully on stage.

Hitting Manchester for three weeks on its first UK tour, this 90’s interpretation of Cinder-f*cking-ella will give you the nostalgia hit that we all crave! And it was so good, I almost peed my pants… (Those that know- know…).

This show was reviewed on the 27th February 2024 at the Palace Theatre, Manchester where it runs until the 16th March 2024.  Tickets available here: Pretty Woman The Musical Tickets | Palace Theatre Manchester in Manchester | ATG Tickets

Full tour details can be found here: Touring the UK and Ireland from Autumn 2023! - Pretty Woman The Musical

Review written by Lee Gregory

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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