A captivating ‘Pretty Woman’ sparkles at the National Theatre

The movie-based musical explores the improbable love story of a corporate raider and a streetwalker in 1980s Hollywood.

Are the rules governing man and woman relationships merely transactional? Can people from different worlds find true love?

Pretty Woman: The Musical explores these questions through captivating music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and sparkling choreography and direction by Jerry Mitchell. This version is based on the acclaimed 1990 film, directed by Hollywood veteran Gary Marshall (who wrote the musical book with J.F. Lawton).

Chase Wolfe as Edward and Ellie Baker as Vivian in ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical.’ Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.

Taking place in 1980s Hollywood, Pretty Woman: The Musical follows Vivian Ward, a charismatic and vivacious hooker with a tender heart. One night, she meets Edward Lewis, a wealthy but uptight businessman (he buys distressed companies) who is looking for company and a woman to be his arm candy.

Both Vivian and Edward make a living doing questionable things. Initially a business agreement, theirs becomes an unconventional love story. Despite the whispers about sexist and outdated themes, I found the man/woman love story in this incarnation timeless.

The orchestra sounded amazing thanks to Shane Ffrench. You’ll have to wait until curtain to hear the titular “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison and Bill Dees.

Many of the dance numbers stood out in their precision, partly due to Dance Captain Elana Valastro. The original scenic design by David Rockwell and tour scenic design by Christine Peters evoked the seedy and posh parts of L.A. The most impressive scenery wagon was a gold and red opera balcony section, complete with red-carpeted steps in the back.

The leads in this show were of Broadway quality. Ellie Baker played Vivian, who fell for businessman Edward, played by Chase Wolfe. Baker brought innocence and savvy to her role. Wolfe brought romance-novel masculinity and country-and-western vocals to his performance. I was rooting for Vivian and Edward.

That duo impressed me with songs like “Long Way Home” and “You’re Beautiful.” Baker/Vivan had me rocking to the crowd-pleasing “Luckiest Girl in the World” and “This Is My Life.”

Lewis hit the audience’s ears with his country-star pipes in “Welcome to Hollywood,” “Freedom,” and “Long Way Home.”

Rae Davenport had the star power of the leads as Kit De Luca, Vivian’s streetwalker best friend. Davenport played Kit as a big sister and mentor to Vivian.

Davenport held her notes long and hard in many of her tunes. I loved her renditions of songs like the rock-infused “Rodeo Drive,” “Welcome to Hollywood,” and the inspiring “Never Give Up on a Dream.”

TOP: Rae Davenport as Kit and Ellie Baker as Vivian; ABOVE: The Company, in ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical.’ Photos by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.

How many accolades can I give to utility man Adam Du Plessis who played the ubiquitous Happy Man, the manager of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (the movie version of the show was filmed there), and other roles as assigned?

As the hotel manager, Plessis assumed an avuncular role with Baker as he tried to keep her and him out of trouble. Plessis even played a conductor in the real orchestra pit for the opera scene — generating many laughs.

Plessis’ Happy Man was sort of an ambassador to Hollywood — where people go to dream. Costume Designer Gregg Barnes dressed him in a trippy, 1960s-vibing red tunic, with a scarf draped over.

Plessis’ Happy Man impressed in “Welcome to Hollywood” with Davenport and the company. He had a good solo in “Entr’acte/Opening Act II.”

Sarah Wang, in her national tour debut, played Violetta. She wowed the audience in the La Traviata opera scene when she sang opera style.

Joshua Kring was a laugh riot as a bellhop. Kerry D’Jovanni was solid as Edward’s business rival, and Justin Glass was annoying as Edward’s right hand Philip Stuckey.

The cast looked fabulous throughout. Josh Marquette excelled with the hair design. Deb Parr evoked the 1980s with her hair and makeup coordination.

Director Mitchell has a crowd-pleaser on his hands. Many of the songs aren’t memorable, but the orchestration and choreography elevate them. Pretty Woman: The Musical is yet another high-energy hit at the National Theatre.

Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours with a 20-minute intermission.

Pretty Woman: The Musical plays through December 17, 2023, at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington. Tickets ($59–$109) are available online or by calling the box office at (202) 628-6161, Monday through Friday 12 pm to 6 pm.

Cast and creative credits for the national tour of Pretty Woman can be found here.

COVID Safety: Masks are strongly recommended but not required for all ticket holders. For full COVID protocol, go here.

Pretty Woman
Based on the motion picture By J.F. Lawton
Book by Gary Marshall and J.F. Lawton
Music and Lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance

Ellie Baker: as Vivian Ward
Chase Wolfe: as Edward Lewis
Rae Davenport: as Kit De Luca
Adam Du Plessis: as Happy Man
*Justin Glass (December 12) and Liam Searcy: as Philip Stuckey
Charlie Fusari: as Landlord
Bethany McDonald: as Susan and Amanda
Devyn Trondson: as Rachel
Joshua Kring: as Giulio
Steven Gagliano, Matt Henningsen, Christian Maxwell Henry, and Hank Santos: as Hotel Staff
Taylor M. Sheppard: as Erica and Scarlett
Kerry D’Jovanni: as David Morse
Hank Santos: as Senator Adams
Steven Gagliano: as Alfredo
Sarah Wang: as Violetta
Matthew Blum, Brianna Clark, Kerry D’Jovanni, Lauren Esser, Charlie Fusari, Steven Gagliano, Matt Henningsen, Christian Maxwell Henry, Alexandra Kinsley, Joshua Kring, Bethany McDonald, Hank Santos, Taylor M. Sheppard, Devyn Trondson, and Sarah Wang
Justin Glass, Robert Miller, Elana Valastro, and Channing Weir: as Swings

Director and Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell
Music Director: Shane Ffrench
Music Supervision: Will Van Dyke
Choreographer Recreated By: Rusty Mowery
Dance Captain: Elana Valastro
Assistant Dance Captain: Robert Miller
Costume Designer: Gregg Barnes
Hair Design: Josh Marquette
Hair and Makeup Coordinator: Deb Parr
Makeup Design: Fiona Mifsud
Original Scenic Design: David Rockwell
Tour Scenic Design: Christine Peters
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner and Philip S. Rosenberg
Sound Design: John Shivers


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