Pretty Woman: The Musical comes to Pittsburgh

The 2018 Broadway musical is on tour and has made its way to the Benedum Center.


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

Pretty Woman: The Musical takes on the Benedum Center

Jess Daninhirsch, Photography Editor

Pretty Woman: The Musical is showing at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh. The original production premiered at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago in 2018 and made it to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre later that year. Unfortunately it closed the following year, but now it is on tour. This musical, similar to the stage musical versions from Mean Girls, Frozen, Billy Elliot, An American in Paris, and Aladdin, was derived from a movie. The 1990 film Pretty Woman, directed by Garry Marshall, stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in a modern take on Cinderella.

The musical, with music and lyrics written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and directed by Jerry Mitchell, follows the story of Vivian Ward, a prostitute, who picks up the rich businessman Edward Lewis off the streets of Hollywood. Edward pays Vivian to keep him company while he is in Hollywood on business for the week. As Vivian is introduced to the richer side of society, she begins to question her self-worth and realizes that she deserves love and a good life. She’s not used to opening up to people, but as she and Edward begin to fall for each other, she finds herself more willing to be brave and take the next steps in her life–inspiring her best friend Kit to do the same. After meeting Vivian, Edward realizes that he would rather be making things by hand than just making money, and he also welcomes new love with open arms.

The traveling cast list for Pretty Woman: The Musical (photo by Jess Daninhirsch)

If you are unfamiliar with the movie, don’t be nervous about going into the musical blind. It is a charming, classically presented story with which you will immediately fall in love. It explores the themes of classism, societal expectations, belonging, self-realization, and of course, a nontraditional romance. The musical does stay very true to the movie, though, and includes some of the same classic lines and scenes. The characters in the musical version seem a little more flat than those in the movie, due to the nature of musical theatre itself, but they gain more dimension in act two.

Olivia Valli (granddaughter of Frankie Valli of the musical group The Four Seasons) as Vivian was a joy to watch. She is perky and fun, and the audience can’t help but quickly fall in love with her. Adam Pascal’s Edward also performed strongly. His strength shines through in the number “You and I.”

But the most incredible thing about this production was the ensemble. I have never seen a more talented ensemble. There was not a single weak link, and some of the side characters even stole the show a few times. The actress who played Kit De Luca, Jessica Crouch, was an incredibly powerful vocalist, as was the operatic Amma Osei. 

Giulio, the bellboy played by Matthew Vincent Taylor, had few lines but made the audience laugh at his comedic acting and gasp at his marvelous dancing. The true powerhouse of the show is the character of Happy Man, usually played by Kyle Taylor Parker, but played by his understudy Jonathan Ritter on February 1. Happy Man embodies various roles throughout the show, including the concierge at the hotel, the bum on the street that encourages Vivian and Kit to follow their dreams, and even the conductor at the opera Vivian and Edward attend. Both Taylor and Ritter as well as male members of the ensemble shine in both vocals and dance in the Spanish tango inspired number “On a Night Like Tonight.” From the dancing to the singing to the acting, the technical skills required for this number were evident. 

The playbill for the show in front of the stage before curtain (photo by Jess Daninhirsch)

The score, written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, showcased a blend of ‘90s rock and hip hop mixed into showtunes. The dancing, choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, also seamlessly incorporated various styles without making it seem overly “musical theatre-y.”

Additionally, the lighting and set designs were simple but beautiful. The blank backdrop was home to color changing lights that looked like sunsets and neon Hollywood lights. The set pieces were moved on and offstage in seamless scene transitions that kept the story moving. The costumes tied the story together, from the neon ‘90s street style to the elegant opera gown.

The marquee outside the Benedum Center (photo by Jess Daninhirsch)

The show concluded with the audience on their feet, singing along to Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” thunderously clapping in appreciation.

Pretty Woman: The Musical is a phenomenal reintroduction to live theatre after a long period of dim Broadway lights. It was especially comforting to see every audience member following protocol when it came to masks. It’s what musical theatre should be: a place where time stops for two hours and you forget all your worries as you become engrossed in whatever story is being told. You come out learning something new and embracing a fresh perspective on the world.