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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Pretty Woman
Piccadilly Theatre  Winter  2020,  Summer 2021

Not as great as its producers would like you to believe or as bad as some reviews suggest, this is a thoroughly enjoyable light entertainment that should give its natural audience almost exactly what they want.

It is, of course, based on the 1990 movie in which a wealthy workaholic, needing a bit of arm candy for a week of business meetings, inexplicably bypasses high-end escort agencies and hires a street whore. She, of course, turns into Cinderella and he, of course, falls in love with her and everyone, of course, lives happily ever after.

Actually, what you're most likely to remember from the film are Julia Roberts's Cinemascope-wide smile, the remarkable skill with which Richard Gere wears a suit, the effortless way Hector Elizando steals all his scenes by quietly underplaying the unflappable hotel manager, and that one Roy Orbison song.

Pretty Woman The Musical provides most of these, or close approximations of them, with a few pluses and minuses.

To start with the best thing about it, Aimie Atkinson lights up the stage as tart-with-a-heart Vivian. She sings strongly, moves sexily, and gives the character a sparky intelligence and wit, along with just enough of a hint of little-girl innocence to make the fairy tale work. And she has a great, really great smile.

Atkinson gets the two best songs in the otherwise unmemorable score by Bryan Adams and Jum Vallance. 'Anywhere But Here' helps convince us at the start that there is more to the girl than her chosen profession might suggest, and she makes the climactic 'I Can't Go Back' a country-flavoured anthem of determination Dolly Parton would be proud to have written.

Danny Mac is, alas, somewhat less impressive as Edward. He sings prettily enough, but there is no character behind the words, and he is even more wooden than the role calls for, leaving a real vacuum for Atkinson to try to play against. And he doesn't even wear a suit as impressively as Richard Gere. (To be fair, who does?)

Fortunately, as a sort of narrator figure added to the musical, Bob Harms pops up in a variety of roles, from Hollywood tour guide to hotel manager, and keeps putting back the life Danny Mac keeps sucking out of the show. He sets and sustains the happy fairy-tale tone and, in the best bit of Jerry Mitchell's direction and choreography, dances a tango that is both sexy and comic.

It's bright, it's colourful, it's high-energy, it's got a really attractive character and performance at the centre, and it translates the happy-fable spirit of the film to the stage. This is what its audience wants, and that audience is well-served

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Pretty Woman - Piccadilly Theatre 2020