Pic: Pretty Woman The Musical, Pictured Center L to R, Samantha Barks, Andy Karl, and Company, Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018
by Julius Grafton
Like many visitors to New York, CX seeks out new musicals and attempts not to read up on them beforehand. Thus recently we’ve seen ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ which has also had a good run in Australia. Newer is ‘Pretty Woman – The Musical’, which we caught at the Nederlander Theatre.
Almost 100 years old and with 1,232 seats, the Nederlander last had a real hit with ‘Rent’, which ran twelve years until 2008. The past decade has seen a cavalcade of flops and modest running shows like ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ and the self fulfillingly titled, ‘Disaster!’
The book for Pretty Woman follows the movie closely including some of the one-liners, like: ‘I’ll be your beck AND call girl’. I do like that one. The leads are close to the original movie actors too, and the slimebag lawyer is – just like a slimebag lawyer.
If you haven’t seen the 1980’s movie starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, it’s about a filthy rich dude who lands in LA to do a deal and decided he needs some rented company. He chooses Roberts who is a wholesome country girl gone slightly bad, and ‘saves’ her from the rental business. While she saves him from himself, a ruthless moneyed vulture. Cue: live happily on the royalties.
I was impressed at the economy of David Rockwell’s scenic design, with streetscapes reduced to iconic outlines, and spectacles banished. It came back to the story, which is quite strong, and added in the device called ‘the musical’ which is where it struggled like many other ‘non jukebox musicals’. Written by none other than Bryan Adams and his collaborator Jim Vallance, you get professionally crafted songs, but you don’t go out the door humming any of them.
This line for the female lead Vivian Barks grated: “It’s true, I sold my body/ But I never sold my soul/ I’ve learned I don’t need anyone/ It’s me who’s in control.” Yup. It gets worse too.
Lighting design by Kenneth Posner and Philip Rosenberg is professional and unremarkable, but the sound design by John Shivers (assisted by David Patridge) had me reaching for the research as the system was unusually all point source instead of line array. It was very adequate, I must add.
Turns out it is one of several Broadway installations of a KV2 speaker system by Shivers and Patridge who are said to prefer point source due to the physical limitations of placing line arrays. They used narrow footprint full range ESR215s at left and right with SL412 point source speaker system for the centre. Naturally there was a bunch more KV2 doing fills and balconies.
I suspect the KV2 gave them a touch more gain before feedback when some of the leads were working on the covered-over orchestra pit as well. It was a pleasant surprise to see something a little less common work as well as this did.
Verdict: A worthy musical, professionally delivered across all departments.
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