Review: Pretty Woman, starring Samantha Barks
Direct from a successful run in Chicago, Pretty Woman: The Musical is now on Broadway starring Samantha Barks and Andy Karl, and it will likely be a defining moment for Barks' career and catapult her to a new level of stardom.
It's difficult to turn a movie into a musical, especially one that is as beloved as Pretty Woman. And at the beginning it feels like the show doesn't know what it wants to do, especially with the underwhelming opening number "Welcome to Hollywood" - despite being well performed by Eric Anderson as the Happy Man, a kind of narrator, and Orfeh as Kit, Vivian's best friend.
However, once Vivian (Barks) begins to sing the second number of the show, the pace picks up and the story moves pretty seamlessly from there on out. We are soon introduced to the other main and supporting characters, including Edward (Karl) when he is taken with Vivian, and Mr. Thompson (also played by Anderson) who is the manager of the Beverly Wilshire.
Anderson does a good job switching between characters and Karl is well suited to the role of Edward and it feels like a very natural character for him to play, despite not being involved in the production during its run in Chicago. Barks is a perfect fit for Vivian, and my hope is that this will see her take more parts on Broadway. Orfeh is phenomenal in the part of Kit and I couldn't imagine anyone else singing those song as well as she does, they feel as if they were written with her in mind.
The entire ensemble is beautifully in sync with several standouts. Allison Blackwell shines as Violetta during the opera number, and her voice is absolutely incredible. Jake Odmark switches flawlessly from character to character but does a particularly nice job as Mr. Hollister at the end of the first act. Tommy Bracco plays Giulio who works at the hotel and he absolutely steals the show. His comic timing and occasional comic relief are top notch and he garnered the most laughs and a great deal of cheers from the audience.
Notable numbers include "Rodeo Drive", which allows Orfeh to use her fantastic vocal range; "Freedom", which give a bit of insight into Edward's feelings, "Never Give Up on a Dream", which Happy Man sings to Kit, allowing for both of them to have some character development; and "I Can't Go Back", which is Vivian's power anthem and will likely be the most well known song from the show. The music has an 80s/90s pop-rock feel which suits the setting but also the story itself.
The sets are minimal, something I wasn't expecting and scenes change quickly in a movie-like style. While it's not ideal for a musical, it works in the context.
If you're a fan of the movie, you'll probably enjoy the musical and even if you go in knowing nothing about the movie, you will still find it easy to follow. With good music and great actors, you can't really go wrong here!