Sarah Tierney is pretty impressed by the musical adaptation of the 80s romance

What: Hit 1980s rom com reborn as a feel-good piece of musical theatre. 

Where: The Palace Theatre

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval)

Tickets: From £13. Available to purchase here.

What The Palace Theatre says:

Once upon a time in the late ’80s, Vivian met Edward and her life changed forever. Be swept up in their romance in this dazzlingly theatrical take on a love story for the ages – and get to know these iconic characters in a whole new way – in a sensational show that took London’s West End by storm, guaranteed to lift your spirits and light up your heart.

Age Guidance: 12+

What we say: 

My main reason for wanting to watch Pretty Woman The Musical was to see how they’d modernise it for today’s post-MeToo audiences. I was hoping for some clever twist on the boy-buys-girl storyline that’d capture the charm of the film while also somehow making it relevant and progressive. I had no idea how the writers would pull this off and by the looks of things, they didn’t either. There’s no redeeming a storyline about a down-and-out woman whose life is fixed for her by a rich man. And maybe that’s why they didn’t even try. 

This is a musical based on a rom-com based on a fairytale; if you’re looking for real life, you took a wrong turn a while back.

But unlike some scathing reviewers in the States and the West End, I really wasn’t too bothered by this, and it certainly didn’t stop me enjoying the show. I’d much rather watch theatre that’s knowingly silly than theatre attempting to be something it’s not. This is a musical based on a rom-com based on a fairytale; if you’re looking for real life, you took a wrong turn a while back.

Pretty Woman Tour  Natalie Paris Kit De Luca And Noah Harrison Giulio  Photo Marc Brenner
Natalie Paris as Kit de Luca and Noah Harrison as Giulio Image: Marc Brenner

If you’re looking for an entertaining and lighthearted escape from reality though, you’ve absolutely arrived at your destination. The show opens on a neon-lit, neon-clad Hollywood Boulevard in the 1980s, and the costume designers have gone all-out on capturing the idiosyncrasies of that decade’s fashion. Vivian, played seamlessly by understudy Paige Fenlon, wears the iconic thigh-high boots, lycra dress, blonde wig and red coat that Julia Roberts rocks in the film.

It sets the tone for the show as a whole: it revels in the clothes, comedy dialogue, memorable scenes and Cinderella-esque moments of the film. But it adds a whole lot of feel-good, belt-it-out songs and ensemble dance scenes to the mix. 

Pretty Woman Tour  Ore Oduba Happy Man And Company  Photo Marc Brenner 1
Ore Oduba and company in Pretty Woman The Musical Image: Marc Brenner

Particularly strong performances come from Natalie Paris who plays Vivian’s sex worker sidekick Kit, and Noah Harrison who plays the clown-like figure of the bellboy. He acts as the comedy (and possibly romantic) partner to the hotel manager played by Strictly winner Ore Oduba. Oduba almost overshadows the leads with his role-swapping, multi-talented performance. The supporting cast in this show do more than support; they make it a success. There’s even some opera singers hiding amongst the ensemble. And as unlikely as it sounds, the mash-up between an operatic aria and the Bryan Adams-penned love song, delivered by the gorgeous-voiced Ben Darcy, really works.  

Pretty Woman Tour  Curtis Patrick  Photo Marc Brenner
Curtis Patrick in Pretty Woman the Musical at The Palace Theatre, Manchester Image: Marc Brenner

The fact that the storyline is so far removed from reality meant that I didn’t feel particularly moved by the emotions depicted on stage. That said, one audience member audibly sighed (then apologised) when the leads had their first kiss, so maybe it was just me who wasn’t quite in the moment with them.

I had a good time though and was entertained throughout. If you’re going, and you’re hoping for a fun, uplifting night out, you won’t be disappointed.

Sarah Tierney is the author of the romance novel Making Space published by Bloodhound Books. 

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