Hands clapping, heads nodding and a standing ovation greeted the pre-Broadway world premiere of "Pretty Woman The Musical" last night, March 28, at Broadway in Chicago's Oriental Theatre. Based on the Touchstone Pictures film "Pretty Woman," written by J.F. Lawton and book by Lawton and the late Garry Marshall, the musical is a foot-stomping romp from Hollywood Blvd. to the penthouse of the Beverly Wilshire with a stellar, talented cast.
When the leads first came onstage, in particular, Samantha Barks who plays Vivian Ward, I stupidly thought how can someone be so beautiful and have a voice to match? Well, first impressions were instantly cast aside when she opened her mouth to sing. This award-winning actress can do it all and you just couldn't take your eyes off of her. She easily went from the hooker character to a well-groomed, glam socialite type without losing a beat or heart. She was lovable, funny (there are so many great lines in this production) and a great dancer to boot, pun intended! Wait till you see her in her thigh-high, black, patent leather boots!
The male lead, Steve Kazee, is a Tony and Grammy Award-winner and was wonderful (sufficient) in the role of Edward Lewis but I didn't think he had the power or charm of a Richard Gere. I wish he had been sexier and more dynamic, but this didn't diminish my enthusiasm for the show.
The set was spectacular and so very clever. Even before the show opened, the backdrop made the audience feel as if they were looking out over Hollywood from behind its iconic sign. I just loved it and fell immediately into the moment.
A standout in the show and my very favorite was Eric Anderson (who seemed to play every single role except for the leads!) He was brilliant in everything he portrayed and went from a down-and-out guy selling maps to stars homes on Hollywood Blvd. to being the polished manager of the Beverly Wilshire seamlessly.
I thought there was so much to see and love in this production. Granted, there are tweaks that need to be made, some things could be cut, but overall, I would go back to see it again in a heartbeat. I left on sensory overload, with songs in my heart. And this is exactly what you would expect from an uplifting, funny, smart musical like this.
All of the producers attended the performance and an after-party followed at the Walnut Room at Macy's State Street. As guests entered, they were each presented with a glass of champagne with a strawberry in it just like Vivian and Edward enjoyed in the production. Awwwwww!
Guests in attendance included Dean Richards, Ji Suk Yi (doing her thing now for the Sun-Times), Lisa Fielding, Brenda Arelano, Lisa Kraus, Jerry Nunn, Margie Korshak, Steve Traxler, former Joffrey Ballet star Abigail Simon, Michael Kutza, Jeanne Malkin, Susan Ellefson, Diane and Sandy Whiteley, Chris Dudley (Illinois Film Office director), Suzanne Friedman and Rick Nicita (CAA partner), among many others.
Rumor has it, Julia Roberts might be attending the premiere when it reaches New York on August 1. Now that is something I wish I could see.
Runs now through April 15 at the Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph St.), 2 hours, 20 minutes.
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Tags: Abigail Simon, Brenda Arelano, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago musical, Chris Dudley, Chuck Jordan, Dean Richards, Diane Whiteley, Eric Anderson, Garry Marshall, J. F. Lawton, Janie Goldberg-Dicks, Jeanne Malkin, Jerry Nunn, Ji Suk Yi, Julia Roberts, Lisa Fielding, Lisa Kraus, Margie Korshak, Michael Kutza, Oriental Theatre, Paula Wagner, Pretty Woman The Musical, Rick Nicita, Samantha Barks, Sandy Whitely, Steve Kazee, Steve Traxler, Susan Ellefson, Suzanne Friedman, theatre in Chicago