The world premiere of “Pretty Woman: The Musical,” based on one of the most beloved romantic comedies of all time, will open at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph St.) March 13 before headlining Broadway in July. The musical is based on the script co-written by film director Garry Marshall and film screenwriter J.F. Lawton, which set the groundwork for their 1990 hit film of the same name.
The musical is directed and choreographed by two-time Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell and features original music and lyrics by Jim Vallance and Grammy Award winner Bryan Adams.
The PHOENIX spoke with the cast and crew about the history of “Pretty Woman: The Musical” and their experiences with the production.
According to Lawton, it was Garry Marshall’s dream to see “Pretty Woman” on Broadway and he worked together with the current crew to make his dream a reality. After Marshall died in 2016, his daughter, Kathleen Marshall, continued to oversee the production, according to Lawton.
Kathleen runs her father’s namesake theater, the Garry Marshall Theatre, a non-profit theater in Burbank, California. She also has experience on the set of the original “Pretty Woman,” where she played a receptionist, and it’s for these reasons her father wanted her to continue his legacy, according to Lawton.
“We want [the musical] to live in the way that he wanted,” Kathleen said. “We knew that it was a dream of his, and he was a part of putting this team together.”
“Pretty Woman: The Musical” tells the now-classic love story of a spirited prostitute from Hollywood, Vivian Ward (Samantha Barks), who falls in love with New York businessman Edward Lewis (Steve Kazee), a millionaire who makes his money buying and breaking apart companies. Although hailing from different worlds, the two come together to lift each other out of their troubles and create a new life together.
“It’s a love story about people who have to work at their relationship,” Marshall said. “There’s a moment where [Edward] really has to look at [Vivian] and listen, and she also sees him and really listens to him, which not everybody does. I hope that it’s inspiring, so we can listen to each other and love each other in this really joyous way.”
Through all their struggles and successes, Vivian and Edward are accompanied by their loyal sidekicks. At Vivian’s side is her best friend and supporter, Kit De Luca, portrayed by Tony Award nominee Orfeh Alimorad. Alongside Edward is his trusted lawyer, Philip Stuckey (Jason Danieley).
Stuckey is knowledgeable and useful when it comes to aiding Edward in his business deals with corporate typhoon James Morse (Kingsley Leggs), but he’s also a villainous, misogynistic man. Danieley said he’s happy this character demonstrates women can rise above men such as Stuckey and put them in their place.
“The musical really highlights the story of women’s empowerment,” Danieley said. “[Vivian is] in a bad place, and she has to prostitute her body to make ends meet. She desires to do better and to have more of a life, and she achieves that through her own strength with the aid of Edward.”
Transforming any popular movie into a musical can present the struggle of maintaining its originality. With an iconic film such as “Pretty Woman,” audiences might worry some of the characters’ charm and humor could get lost in the process. When combining the script with music, Mitchell didn’t want to reinvent the story but rather transform it into more subtle, familiar ways, according to Lawton.
“Being a huge fan of the movie, as well as it being a family movie, what I was most worried about was the casting of Edward and Vivian,” Marshall said. “When Steve Kazee agreed to come back [to Broadway], I loved his voice and his presence. Samantha Barks has this voice, with such a range, and even in the earliest rehearsals, once they start singing, I don’t think about Julia [Roberts] and Richard [Gere] anymore. I think that Edward and Vivian, in their musical form, are Steve Kazee and Samantha Barks. That’s the musical, those two.”
The score was crafted by Adams and Vallance in a way that adds a new dimension to the storyline. Audiences can expect to gain deeper insight into the minds of the characters, according to Marshall.
“What I keep saying is that for people that love the movie, you’re going to get more — more information about Kit De Luca, more information about Edward and Vivian, and Mr. Thompson expands as well,” Marshall said. “They’re the characters we love as much as Edward and Vivian. This is an amazing, beautiful new version that adds in more to the story.”
Although “Pretty Woman” is now 28 years old, its story is still relevant today. Vivian’s strong, independent character serves as a reminder that everyone should stand up for themselves and pursue their dreams, even if they might have do so in a less conventional way.
“We’re here to celebrate love and the empowerment of women and the opportunity to have an equal relationship,” Danieley said. “That’s possible, and to celebrate that has imbued the work environment with love and humor.”
Regardless of whether one has seen the movie a hundred times or possibly never at all, the timeless characters and radiating storyline of “Pretty Woman” will still be dazzling.
“You’re going to go, and it’s going to be a unique experience,” Lawton said. “You won’t have to have seen [Pretty Woman], but if you’ve seen it, it’s like watching the film in a new way.”
“Pretty Woman” will play at the Oriental Theatre March 13-April 15. Tickets can be purchased at Broadway in Chicago box offices by calling 800-775-2000 and online at http://www.broadwayinchicago.com/show/pretty-woman/. Ticket prices range from $35-$105.