Playhouse Square’s Touring Production of ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ delights




There comes a time when we simply deserve a fun night out in spite of what the national news says. What better way to spend a couple of hours in pursuit of a little naughty pleasure than to take in an excellent Broadway show. It has been a tough couple of years and we deserve a break.

I am of course talking about the Garry Marshall and J. F. Lawton touring production of “Pretty Woman: The Musical” with music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. The show is Directed as well as Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell and is now playing at the Connor Palace in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Pretty Woman” got its start back in August of 1964 when Roy Orbison released the song as a single where it spent three weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. This inspired the 1990 American romantic comedy film directed by Garry Marshall with screenplay by J. F. Lawton. The film starred Richard Gere and Julia Roberts and featured Héctor Eliaondo, Ralph Bellamy, Laura San Giacomo and Jason Alexander.

The film was originally intended to be a dark story about class distinction and prostitution in Los Angeles but was rewritten as a romantic comedy and given a large budget. The gamble paid off as the film succeeded in having the highest number of ticket sales ever for a romantic comedy in the United States earning over $463.4 million. The film also launched the career of Julia Roberts who received a Golden Globe as well an an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

This brings us up to “Pretty Woman: The Musical” which premiered at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, Illinois on March 13, 2018 where it ran for five weeks. With most of the kinks worked out it transferred to Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre on July 20, 2018 for previews and then an August 16, 2018 opening. It broke the Nederlander Theatre box office record and went on to have 27 previews and 420 regular performances. The show is now on tour in England, Germany and the United States.

Edward Lewis (Chris Manuel) is a very rich corporate raider who buys struggling companies and dismantles them for sale. He is in Los Angeles to close the deal on the Morse Ship Building Company. David Morse (Joshua Johnson), the son of the deceased original founder) is hoping for a government grant so that the company can retool and begin producing luxury cruise ships.

Borrowing his attorney’s Lotus Esprit, Edward finds he cannot drive the tricky manual transmission. He ends up in the dodgy end of Hollywood where he meets a street walker, Vivian Ward whom he hires to drive the car to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for $100. In the penthouse suite, Edward decides to hire Vivian at $3,000 to be his escort for six days of business meetings and social gatherings. Vivian is a small town girl who followed a boy friend to La-La Land only to be abandoned. She ended up meeting a prostitute, Kit De Luca, who taught Vivian the trade and the two share an apartment. Over the course of the week Vivian and Edward begin to truly care about each other and Edward begins to rethink his career as a corporate raider.

The first thing to be mentioned is that opening night three rolls were filled by understudies. Edward Lewis was played by Chris Manuel, Giulio was played by Nico DeJesus and David Morse was played by Joshua Johnson. Unless you had gotten the e-mail you never would have known. That shows the strength of this touring company.

The role of Vivian is played by Olivia Valli (granddaughter of Frankie) who is a triple treat of singing, acting and dancing and does each one superbly. Other notables are Kyle Taylor Parker who is the busiest man in the show as he portrays Happy Man, the dancing and wise cracking Hotel Concierge, the Opera Conductor and Manager of a swanky Rodeo Drive boutique. He is worth the price of the ticket. Nico DeJesus as Giulio steals each and every scene that he is in with his antics and facile expressions (his dance sequence with Kyle Taylor Parker is superb), Jessica Crouch is sassy as the unsinkable Kit De Luca, Chris Manuel shows off his pipes as Edward Lewis.

Of special note, during the La Traviata sequence Amma Osei gives an absolutely awe inspiring operatic rendition that literally stops the show in its tracks. It was a wonderful surprise in an evening filled with them. This includes the curtain call that begins with that famous bass note riff of the song "Pretty Woman" as the cast and audience launch into a spontaneous party of singing, clapping and dancing as the cast take their bows


The Choreography by Jerry Mitchell is exceedingly clever and inventive as it brings life and sparkle to the show. The dancing is far better than you would expect in a touring company. Mitchell’sDirectorial skills are also noted as the show moves very quickly (the 2 hrs.+ fly by). The Stage Set by David Rockwell is very effective in setting the scenes. You know exactly where the action is taking place at all times. Costumes by Gregg Barnes range all the way from street prostitute chic all the way to high society formal and everything in between.

The Lighting Design by Kenneth Posner and Philip S. Rosenberg does a wonderful job in setting all the various moods. John Shivers’ Sound Design is able to conquer the huge expanse of the Connor Palace so that each voice is heard crystal clear. The Orchestra consists of only six members: Daniel Klintworth (Conductor/Keyboard I), Shane Parus (Associate Conductor/Keyboard II), Oscar Bautista (Guitar I), Claudio Raino (Guitar II), Magda Kress (Bass) and Kevin McNaughton (Drums). They are a whirlwind of sound that really add to the musical numbers. All of these elements combined to make for a joyful experience for the audience.

During these challenging times it is nice to get out and experience some pleasure in the form of a Broadway touring show. This roughly based Cinderella story comes alive on stage and allows you to escape the world if only for a couple of short hours. Bring someone you love and share it with them.

“Pretty Woman The Musical” will be on stage in the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square through March 27, 2022. For tickets in information go to https://www.playhousesquare.org/ or call (216) 241-6000.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.