Opposites attract in ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’

COSTA MESA (News4usonline) – Ok. The storyline of “Pretty Woman: The Musical” is weird but it works. A rich guy falls in love with a prostitute and they have a happily ever after life. Well, there’s hope for some people who never think that they would fall in love, especially when outwardly and socially, it is not supposed to happen.

Well, that’s how dreams come true. They are not for everyone. And fairytales are pushed along to give people hope of what could be. It might be a little on the far-fetched side, but hope, nevertheless, is something we all have in common. And what’s wrong with a streetwalker being swept off of her feet and seeing her life as a serial sex worker turn into a modern-day princess?  

egerstrom Center for the Arts – PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL – Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli – Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Nothing. Nothing at all because dreams allow each one of us to move past our reality in the present to something bigger and greater through endless possibilities in our imaginations. This is what “Pretty Woman: The Musical” is about. It is a love story that seems out of the realm of possibility.

It’s a real stretch, but in real life, the women and men who sell their bodies for sex are human beings like the rest of us. They go to church. Some are educated. They’re entrepreneurs. They have families. They have feelings. They are very much us. And yet the scorn of stigmatization hovers above them like an annoying fly sitting over a piece of watermelon. We see all of this play out or alluded to in “Pretty Woman: The Musical.”

Based on the hit 1990 movie that starred Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, “Pretty Woman: The Musical” is a triumphant love story that is able to conquer all obstacles.

For the so-called ugly duckling-those who dropped out of school, those who are marginalized because of their sexuality or what their belief system is, and for those individuals who don’t believe they have a place in society, “Pretty Woman: The Musical” is the right recipe to give you an injection boost of self-confidence and doses of inspiration.

First, let’s be clear about a couple of things. Roberts, who plays the loquacious Vivian Ward, does not headline the show. And you can forget about Richard Gere coming out on stage to re-enact his role as the tightly wrapped businessman Edward Lewis who’s gone head over heels over a beautiful and seductive streetwalker. No, you can only get the film version of “Pretty Woman” on a streaming platform near you.

egerstrom Center for the Arts - PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL - Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli – Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade
Segerstrom Center for the Arts – PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL – Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli – Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

That’s okay. The Broadway musical is fine keeping the spirit of Roberts and Gere alive with its national tour now playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts through July 17. Instead of Roberts and Gere, stepping into their respective characters are Adam Pascal, who was nominated for a Tony Award for his work in RENT, and Olivia Valli, whose credits include being a part of the “Wicked” cast.

The nuts and bolts of the lengthy (2 hrs, 24 minutes) performance is Lewis (Pascal) is in need of an escort to several of his high-profile functions. He spots Olivia (Valli) and makes her an offer she is not able to turn down. At least for the moment.

Being reluctant, Olivia balks at the gesture but gets pushback from her close friend Kit De Luca (played by Jessica Crouch) to go through with the plan. Olvia decides to take the money and run. What follows is an inescapable transition for Olivia as she milks the cow long enough to develop special feelings for Lewis.

This bonding experience is reciprocal for Lewis, who now risks professional pushback because of his relationship with Olivia. The original boundaries that Lewis has set forth are broken as the pair get closer and are inexplicably drawn to one another, first through physical attraction and then by time spent together. The attraction is mutual. Like every relationship, Lewis and Olivia hit a snag about being polar opposites.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts - PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL - Olivia Valli – Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade
Segerstrom Center for the Arts – PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL – Olivia Valli – Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

The designation of classism comes into play, and soon enough Olvia finds herself on the outside looking into Lewis’ world. She feels out of place. Even as he woos her with expensive shopping sprees, a trip to the opera, and a world totally upside down from where she comes from, it is a burden that Olvia feels the weight of. She leans on Kit for advice. That is what friends are for. Ultimately, Olivia has to find herself to feel comfortable in her upgrade of living, that she can have it all.

As a musical, “Pretty Woman: The Musical” is toned down in comparison to other high-profile productions, but it hits all the right notes. Valli, without question, is a true power on stage. She wows you in so many ways. She is able to flip the switch from streetwalker to a high-end socialite with relative ease.  She shows that Olvia can be quirky, sensitive, and inarguably sensuous. As Lewis discovers, Olivia is not weak.

As Roberts stole the show in the film when she put on that red dress, so does Valli as she replicates that scene. She is just as stunning as Roberts. It is a moment during the musical that you anticipate from the beginning even though you may have seen the film dozens of times. Roberts will always be the official “Pretty Woman,” but Valli is not too far behind.

Pascal is just as equal in his performance as Valli. Some of the numbers that he is able to belt out border on sensational and triumphant. He is the perfect complement to Valli. Crouch as Kit nearly steals the show from both Pascal and Valli with her quick-witted one-liners and bodacious attitude. Crouch brings an energy to the show that is irreplaceable. “Pretty Woman: The Musical” is a type of love story that many of us have dreamed about. Seeing this performance will help you realize it is still possible.

Featured Image: Segerstrom Center for the Arts – PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL – The Company of Pretty Woman: The Musical – Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade