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Pretty Woman: The Musical | Review

Fun, flirty and fabulous! A must-see musical for fans of the 90s hit movie

By Grace Taylor

Rating: 4/5

I was kindly invited to attend the first night of Pretty Woman: The Musical at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen this week. Having missed the West End run, I was thrilled to see the tour making a stop in Aberdeen, even if it meant that theatregoers like myself had to brave the snow on Monday evening.

Image courtesy of Aberdeen Performing Arts

Pretty Woman is a musical adaptation of the 1990 Hollywood rom-com of the same name, which starred Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. In the stage production, you can expect to hear music and lyrics from the talented Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. For those who haven’t seen the movie, Pretty Woman was released as a modern take on the story of My Fair Lady (1964). It takes place in 1980s Hollywood, as Georgian-born sex worker Vivian Ward meets wealthy and somewhat unethical businessman Edward Lewis. After helping Edward find his hotel, the two spend the night together, and Vivian agrees to join him for a week of social engagements for the small price of $3,000. Over the course of this week, the two bond as Vivian accompanies Edward to events and business meetings.

Amber Davies usually plays the role of Vivian in the stage production. However, her understudy, Aberdeenshire-born Elly Jay, has been taking over the role of Vivian in the Aberdeen run. Having seen Davies perform at the Edinburgh Playhouse a few years ago, I was disappointed she was not performing at the show I attended. However, Jay was the perfect understudy. Having appeared as Vivian in the West End production as well, it was evident that Jay belongs on a stage. She lit up the stage and captivated the audience. The chemistry between Jay and her co-star, Oliver Savile, was palpable. The pair made the perfect couple, capturing the romance between Vivian and Edward. The supporting actors Ore Oduba and Annell Odartey were also phenomenal. The ensemble cast oozed talent, showcasing the quality of the performers.

The set and lighting were also a joy to see. The set and lighting designers managed to capture Hollywood magic through their use of vibrant colours and set dressings. The costumes transported the audience to the 1980s with neon outfits, shoulder pads and double denim. Vivian’s iconic red dress that she wears to the opera was also gorgeous.

The progression of her outfits, matching those in the movie, symbolised Vivian’s adventurous spirit, her uncertainty and, ultimately, how she finds herself by the end of the story.

The accompanying original soundtrack included a mixture of catchy tunes as well as heartfelt ballads. My personal favourite was, ‘This Is My Life.’ In this song, at the start of act two, Vivian tells the tale of how she ended up with no money and no friends, turning to sex work to make ends meet. The lyrics, ‘I'm so tired of lettin everybody else but me /Define a woman's world/’ encapsulate how Vivian is fighting for her own voice. The soundtrack accompanying the show creates more depth for the characters, highlighting Vivian’s independence alongside her relationship with Edward. The curtain call played out to ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ by Roy Orbison with Kit (Annell Odartey) and Happy Man (Ore Oduba), encouraging the audience to get to their feet and sing along in the final minutes.

Image courtesy of Aberdeen Performing Arts

Despite stellar performances from the cast, my issue with the musical lies with the storyline, which is a little outdated. The musical fails to update its plotlines for a modern audience. The story attempts to promote feminist principles, with Kit and Vivian repeating, ‘We Say Who, When, and How Much’ whilst at the same time occasionally reinforcing gender stereotypes. On the one hand, Vivian is in control of her own body, pushing against the stereotypical idea that sex workers must suffer at the hands of patriarchal control. Vivian’s final ballad, ‘I Can’t Go Back’, encompasses how she deserves to make her own decisions, even if that means leaving the man she loves. However, one may argue that the overall story perpetuates the idea of the damsel in distress. Vivian speaks about her childhood fantasy of being whisked away by a knight in shining armour. The story is also a stereotypical romance, where a woman is fulfilled by the love of a man.

Vivian’s background as a poor girl from Georgia, led astray by the lousy men in her life and eventually following one to Hollywood, plays on the audience’s emotions. Arguably, her sad backstory makes viewers root for her to have a happy ending. She is portrayed as a morally sound person who ends up in a difficult situation. However, I would argue that both Vivian and Edward rescue and help each other. Vivian assists Edward in appreciating life outside of his hostile business and encourages him to become a more considerate person. Edward helps Vivian to find her voice and to define her own world. Although he is the one that provides her with a new life, they both save each other. I believe the movie and the musical exist in a grey area when it comes to feminist ideals. Still, we ultimately do not know whether Vivian’s development ends because Edward wins her back. 

For me, this musical was thoroughly enjoyable and exceeded my expectations. Pretty Women: The Musical provides an entertaining night for both fans of the Hollywood classic and those new to the story.

It is filled with romance, comedy and iconic quotes from the film. It is one you don’t want to miss! Tickets are on sale for Aberdeen until 20th January starting at £18. 


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