Looking for Valentine’s options? Girls’ night out? PRETTY WOMAN THE MUSICAL based on the 1990 highest-grossing RomCom for a decade – and the one that launched the career of a young Julia Roberts – opens in Jacksonville on 2/15. The musical ran on Broadway until Covid brought it to an early close. This company (with some shifts) has been on tour since September 2021.
The story is based on the classic Pygmalion (which originates in Ovid’s Metamorphoses written over 2000 years ago). Edward, a successful businessman, hires Vivian, a free-spirited prostitute, to be his escort to several functions over the course of a week. Both individuals have some amount of transformation – Edward in the way he views Vivian and Vivian in her view of herself.
I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking with Matthew Stocke, who plays Philip Stuckey (Jason Alexander’s role in the movie), Edward’s greedy lawyer and the bad guy in the show. Matthew has been with this project since its workshop days in 2016, which is where the writers are hashing out how the pieces of a show fit together using live actors before the show goes to the stage. He was the swing for Stuckey on Broadway, where he did about 430 performances. He’ll have over 1000 performances of this show by the end of the tour in May.
Looking at the talent attached to the origination of this show is a who’s who of who’s whos. Leading the creative team is two-time Tony Award®-winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde). The book was adapted by Garry Marshall, who directed the movie. Mr. Marshall has written for some of the most iconic TV series, the best known of which is probably Happy Days (255 episodes). His directing launched more careers than one can count – Julia Roberts, Robin Williams, Anne Hathaway, to name a few. JF Lawton wrote the screenplay and worked with Marshall on the adaptation. Marshall sadly passed during the workshopping of PRETTY WOMAN THE MUSICAL, but the family kept close with the production.
Music is by Bryon Adams and Jim Vallance. Adams/Vallance were frequent co-writing partners with a portfolio of songs recorded by other artists including Prism (of which Vallance was a founding partner), Loverboy, Payola$, Lisa Dal Bello, Joe Cocker, Kiss, Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Celine Dion, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Bonnie Tyler, Ted Nugent, Juice Newton, and Neil Diamond. Individually, they have scores of hits, and both are inductees to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The storyline very closely follows the movie, in some places verbatim, even though it’s a musical. The cast is a group of 26, who at the time I spoke with Matthew had been stuck in a hotel in Dallas due to the unexpected freeze. They are a close-knit team who have been through a lot, still having to do daily covid tests per union rules. Matthew says they had one major outbreak during Omicron that quarantined 9 cast members for 10 days – and the show still went on!
While keeping the integrity of the movie, PRETTY WOMAN THE MUSICAL has no graphic scenes, so it is appropriate for teens+. Matthew says they get a lot of teens, bachelorette parties, and folks decked out as characters from the movie – right down to the iconic red dress worn by Roberts. By the way, if you boo Stuckey during curtain calls, he’ll love it!
Part of the FSCJ Artist Series, PRETTY WOMAN THE MUSICAL is downtown February 15-19, 2023, at the Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts with seven performances. Ticket prices vary based on show and seating. For tickets, go to fscjartistseries.org or call (904) 632-5000.
By Cessy Newmon