Review: Pretty Woman the Musical (Broadway in Chicago)

| April 3, 2018

Samantha Barks abd Steve Kazee star in Pretty Woman the Musical, Broadway in Chicago            

Pretty Woman

Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance (music, lyrics)
Garry Marshall, J.F. Lawton (book)  
Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph (map)
thru April 15  |  tix: $33-$125  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Come see the new ‘Pretty Woman’ in town!


Samantha Barks abd Steve Kazee star in Pretty Woman the Musical, Broadway in Chicago

Broadway in Chicago presents
Pretty Woman the Musical

Review by Johanna Dalton

It would be hard to find a more beloved and iconic modern Cinderella story to bring to the musical stage than Pretty Woman. But this Chicago world premiere of the Broadway-bound musical succeeds by bringing it to life with a strong and highly talented cast.

The script sticks closely to the story in the film. Samantha Barks, playing Vivian Ward, recreates the original “Vivian” style, walk and big personality, making it easy to slip back into the unfolding fairy tale. She combines a fresh innocence with a powerful passionate voice so the audience can’t help rooting for her, again. Tony (2012) and Grammy (2013) Award winning Steve Kazee’s understated rendering of Edward Lewis, is somewhat flat. His anticipated burgeoning love for Vivian is revealed in the songs that he instills with somber and intense emotion, but we don’t get to see the slow cracking of his façade as Vivian melts his heart. Everyone in the audience knows where he’s going, but when we find that he has turned in his Italian shoes for reading Whitman barefoot in the grass, it feels like we missed something.

Tony Award nominee Orfeh gives a crowd-pleasing portrayal of Kit DeLuca, complete with swag and wise-cracking humor. Her booming voice delivers with satisfying force and she and Barks play nicely off each other. The dual role of Eric Anderson (Happy Man, Mr. Thompson) is cleverly highlighted early in the play. As Mr. Thompson, he is a voice of wisdom who goes from critic to biggest fan of Vivian, while as Happy Man he evokes the excitement of the Hollywood boulevard of dreams.

Music and lyrics are written by Grammy Award winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, their first-time effort at a musical play. The songs are energetic, engaging, and do a good job of illuminating the narrative. However, they lack a sense of flow. It may be related to Adams’ pop music background–nearly all the songs are directed toward the audience and rarely sung to each other. Or perhaps, it is assumed (not necessarily correctly) that the story is so well known, the music does not need to provide a bridge to the next scene because the audience can make the connection on its own.

There are a couple of staging adaptations made for the theater, e.g. no limousine driving up under Vivian’s fire escape and the lesson on which utensils to use becoming a charming dance lesson. But most of the film’s highlight moments, including the giggle at the snapping jewelry box, are fulfilled. And ultimately, this is the Pretty Woman we hoped we would see and could leave with a satisfied sigh. The strength of Samantha Bark’s persona and performance is what makes it so.

Rating: ★★★

Pretty Woman the Musical continues through April 15th at Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph (map), with performances Tuesdays-Fridays 7:30pm, Saturdays 2pm & 8pm, Sundays 2pm & 7:30pm.  Tickets are $33-$125, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or through (check for availability of half-price tickets). More at or time: 2 hours 35 minutes, includes intermission)

Photo by Matthew Murphy




Samantha Barks (Vivian Ward), Steve Kazee (Edward Lewis), Orfeh (Kit DeLuca), Eric Anderson (Mr. Thompson, Happy Man), Jason Danieley (Philip Stuckey), Kingsley Leggs (James Morse), Jennifer Sanchez (Rachel), Tommy Bracco (Giulio), Robby Clater (David Morse), Anna Eilinsfeld (Scarlett), Brian Cali (Alfredo), Allison Blackwell (Violetta), Tommy Bracco, Brian Cali, Robby Clater, Anna Eilinsfeld, Lauren Lim Jackson, Renee Marino, Ellyn Marie Marsh, Jillian Mueller, Jake Odmark, Jennifer Sanchez, Matthew Stocke, Alex Michael Stoll, Alan Wiggins, Darius Wright (ensemble), Jessica Crouch, Matt Farcher, Jesse Wildman (swings), Renee Marino (dance captain), Alex Michael Stoll (fight captain)


Will Van Dyke (music director, conductor, keyboard 1), Patrick Sulken (associate conductor, keyboard 2), Sammy Merendino (drums, Ableton programmer, electric drum programmer), Brian Koonin (guitar 1), Steve Roberts (guitar 2), Larry Kohut (bass), Katherine Hughes (violin), Benton Wedge (viola), Mark Lekas (cello),

behind the scenes

Jerry Mitchell (director, choreographer), Will Van Dyke (music supervision, arrangements, orchestrations, music director, conductor), David Rockwell (scenic design),  Gregg Barnes (costume design); Kenneth Posner, Philip S. Rosenberg (lighting design), John Shivers (sound design), Josh Marquette (hair design), James Ortiz (puppet design), Fiona Mifsud (makeup design), Telsey + Company (casting), DB Bonds (associate director), Rusty Mowery (associate choreographer), Kathy Fabian (props supervisor), Thomas Recktenwald (production stage manager), Shannon Hammons (stage manager), Andrew Morton (asst. stage manager), Theatersmith Associates (technical supervisor), Randy Cohen (keyboard programmer), Jeremy King (asst. keyboard programmer), Emily Grishman (music copying), Tim Burke (local music coordinator), Michael Keller, Michael Aarons (music coordinators), Matthew Murphy (photography)


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Category: 2018 Reviews, Broadway in Chicago, Johanna Dalton, Musical, New Work, Oriental Theatre (Ford), Video, World Premier, YouTube

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