Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

‘Pretty Woman’ takes the stage at Emerson Colonial

Matthew Murphy

This article contains spoilers.

Backdropped by a set of the Hollywood sign, the Emerson Colonial Theatre stage erupted into a riot of upbeat sound and brightly colored lights to begin the opening night performance of “Pretty Woman: The Musical” on Feb. 27.

The production stars Ellie Baker as Vivian Ward, Chase Wolfe as Edward Lewis, Rae Davenport as Kit De Luca, and Adam Du Plessis as Happy Man. Du Plessis serves as the show’s narrator, first as a character on Hollywood Boulevard, then as the well-loved hotel manager who helps Ward. The musical was written by Gary Marshall and composed by ‘80s musical icon Bryan Adams. 

The production follows Ward, a prostitute in Hollywood in the 1980s, and her chance encounter with the disillusioned, wealthy businessman Lewis. The musical asks the audience the question, “What’s your dream?” prompting the performance to explore and manifest a modern-day fairytale. Only in this way does that fairy tale not shy away from the realities of life but still proves that dreams that seem impossible can still come true.

The musical is based on the now-cult classic film “Pretty Woman” from 1990, starring Julia Roberts as Ward and Richard Gere as Lewis. Roberts delivered an iconic and landmark performance as Ward, which has been solidified into popular culture and media. Her memorable line from the film (“Big Mistake. Big. Huge.”) has become instantly recognizable, and the performance cemented Roberts as a force in Hollywood even after her breakout role in the 1988 film “Mystic Pizza.”

Given the fan following and worldwide popularity of the original film, it is no surprise that it would be one of the many movies that has been given a Broadway-style facelift in its transformation into musical production.

“Pretty Woman: The Musical” debuted on March 13, 2018, in Chicago before making its Broadway debut on Aug. 16. It is now on its U.S. national tour and is being performed throughout the U.K. and in Germany. It made a six-day stop in Boston at the historic and gilded Emerson Colonial Theatre last week. 

The musical follows the film’s plot closely, opening with the fun and aptly named number “Welcome to Hollywood,” which introduces us to Ward and her situation. From there, the audience meets the indomitable De Luca and the imposing Lewis, moving into the world of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. It’s full of rich and powerful people like Lewis, who tears apart profit companies.

In her optimism, Ward gives Lewis a new perspective on life and work, which he explores in his song “Freedom.” This causes him to fall for her over the week when she agrees to pretend to be rich and accompany him to business functions as he tries to secure a deal worth millions. 

The score follows a traditional Broadway style, with a distinct ‘80s style underscoring the numbers to make the soundtrack fit the period. Full cast numbers such as “Rodeo Drive” were interspersed with more introspective solos such as “I Can’t Go Back” to create a fully fleshed-out and intriguing musical score for the production. 

Baker gave a standout performance as Ward, paying homage to Roberts while bringing her unique musical prowess to the character. The premiere performance featured Channing Weir going on for Davenport as De Luca, who stole the stage with her comedic antics. The ensemble cast bracketed these star performances with high-energy choreography that enraptured and captivated the audience. 

The musical explores themes of trying to fit into a new world, showing Ward as she tries to break free of the environment she had been used to in Hollywood. She knows her worth and wants more than she currently does, which she finds through Lewis and understanding and taking control of her agency. It was powerful to witness her coming into herself and realizing she could change her reality and make her fairy tale come true. 

The costuming, in particular, alludes to the original film, especially Ward’s outfits. The opening number sees her in the white-top and blue-skirt combo, with the shoulder pad red blazer and blond-bob wig completing the look identical to that of Ward as Roberts portrayed her. The blond wig is later removed to reveal Baker donning the same signature red curls as Roberts.

The black dress from the business dinner scene and the iconic red dress Ward wears to the opera with Lewis, complete with the same hairstyle and accessories as Roberts wore in the film, are also displayed. These choices allowed the audience to make connections to the film and feel like they were seeing a new side to the familiar and well-loved movie. 

The production can honor the original film’s legacy while adding something new to the well-known storyline. The magnificent performances, eye-catching choreography, and costumes made for a roaring night of fun. The bright visuals and energetic cast made the musical a memorable and inspiring experience. With its nods to the iconic film and breath of new life into the well-known story, “Pretty Woman: The Musical” lived up to its description as “A big new musical. Big. Huge.”

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About the Contributor
Danielle Bartholet, Assistant Living Arts Editor
Danielle Bartholet has been passionate about writing as long as she can remember, writing on her high school newspaper and then for the Berkeley Beacon since 2023. She is currently a freshman at Emerson as a WLP major and a marketing communications minor. She is from Houston, TX, and enjoys reading and writing, as well theatre.

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