REVIEW: Pretty Woman The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday ***

Amber Davies’s Vivian and Oliver Savile’s Edward, centre, in Pretty Woman The Musical

CHATTING with Mother Hutch’s carer on Monday morning, discussions turned to this week’s reviews. Pretty Woman. “Ah, I loved the film. I know every line. Especially the funny scenes,” she said.

And there you have it: exactly why Pretty Woman still appeals 34 years after the Julie Roberts/Richard Gere directed by Garry Marshall from a screenplay by J. F. Lawton.

Tickets have been selling like weiners (or ‘wieners’ according to the sign on David Rockwell’s set) for the run at the Grand Opera House, where Monday night’s excited atmosphere will be matched throughout a packed week.

Women dominated, often gathered in groups, of differing ages too, such remains the pull of this Cinderella meets My Fair Lady tale.

The book is by Marshall and Lawton, so no surprises to discover that all the favourite lines are still there. So too is the iconic red dress; the moment where the jewellery box snaps back on Vivian; the flip of the opera glasses; the finale where vertigo-suffering Edward must climb the fire escape to reach Vivian.

So too, the late-1980s setting on Sunset Boulevard, indicated by a reminder to switch off mobile phones that weren’t the norm back then, and later Edward using a phone the size of a brick.

What’s new is two-fold: a “blazing rock score” by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams (booked to play Dalby Forest on June 21, by the way) and Jim Vallance, and slick direction and choreography Tony Award-winning Jerry Mitchell.

Make that three-fold: 2016 Strictly Come Dancing champ Ore Oduba plays two characters:  Happy Man, the narrator-cum-Sunset Boulevard wheeler-dealer in the spirit of Oliver Twist’s Fagin, as well as smooth operator Barnard Thompson, the all-seeing-yet-turn-a-blind-eye manager of the Beverly Wilshire hotel, where Edward and Vivian hook up.

That’s two Odubas for the price of one, making him the best value in this show, especially in his song-and-dance routine with Noah Harrison’s scene-stealing bell boy Giulio. The moment when Oduba’s Mr Thompson says he has previous experience of ballroom dancing, delivered with a knowing eye, is the best in show.

Ore Oduba’s Happy Man, one of his two, nay, three roles in Pretty Woman The Musical

Spoiler alert, Oduba even pops up in a third role, as an egregious Rodeo Drive fashion boutique owner. Again, there is that look, not so much breaking down theatre’s fourth wall, as being aware of the audience being one step ahead.

Pretty Woman is the one where, once upon a time in the late ’80s, Hollywood hooker Vivian Ward (Amber Davies, but not on press night) meets billionaire businessman Edward Lewis (Oliver Savile) on the strip.

As the line goes, they “both screw for money”, she by the world’s oldest profession, he by picking off failing companies’ assets: the ruthless “scrap dealer”, as his lawyer calls him.

“Be swept up in their romance in this dazzlingly theatrical take on a love story for the ages – and get to know these iconic characters in a whole new way,” invites the show’s description on the Grand Opera House website.

A whole new way? Well, only in that they now sing, a transformation in the tradition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion becoming My Fair Lady, but with better songs (by Frederick Loewe and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner).

Understudying for Davies, Sydnie Hocknell’s Vivian is sassy, more than savvy, as resolute and eager to learn as Eliza Doolittle, but with street smarts too, especially in her bond with Kit de Luca (Annell Odartey, understudying for Natalie Paris).

Savile’s Edward is arrogant, presumptuous, undeniably successful, heartless, decisive, but a tender piano player too. If Vivian’s life is “changed forever”, then so too is Edward’s, a point made more forcefully in the musical.

If you loved the film, then Pretty Woman will work its fairytale magic once more, but the songs don’t rival any of Adams’s hits. Nor, do they match professional debutante Lila Falce-Bass’s Violetta singing Sempre Libera from La Traviata in the opera scene. How could they?!

Roy Orbison’s Oh, Pretty Woman makes a guest appearance, teased just before the interval, but held back to the walkdown, where it feels tagged on, when it could have had much more impact when Vivian tries on dresses in Rodeo Drive. Maybe that was not allowed, however.  

Pretty Woman The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, until  Saturday, 7.30pm nightly, plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office:

Not one, but two Ore Odubas for the price of one in Pretty Woman The Musical. No wonder he’s full of positivity on York return

Ore Oduba as narrator and Hollywood Boulevard wheeler-dealer Happy Man in Pretty Woman The Musical, playing the Grand Opera House, York, from next Tuesday

2016 Strictly Come Dancing champ Ore Oduba was last seen on the Grand Opera House stage in fishnets as nerdy, preppy American student Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show.

A month shy of two years later, he returns to the Cumberland Street theatre in York next week in “the ultimate rom-com, live on stage”: Pretty Woman The Musical.

What’s more, audiences can look forward to Oduba at the double, playing not only hotel manager Barnard Thompson but also Happy Man on tour from Tuesday to Saturday.

“Mr Thompson exists in the movie, but what they’ve done for the musical is create this dual role, where you’re also Happy Man, something of a narrator, who’s kind of the Fagin of Hollywood Boulevard, where two worlds meet.”

Set once upon a time in the late 1980s, as a Cinderella tale for the modern age, Pretty Woman connects the worlds of Hollywood hooker Vivian Ward (played by Amber Davies) and entrepreneur Edward Lewis (Oliver Savile).

Ore Oduba in fishnets in his previous role at the Grand Opera House: Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show in March 2022. Picture: Stuart Webb

“Happy Man brings the magic to Vivian’s turnaround – and you do have to sprinkle a little magic dust on that transformation,” says Ore. “That’s the kind of romance that people really get behind. Audiences really love the human empowerment story: the villains of the piece have to leave the theatre in hooded cloaks as everyone really gets behind Vivian.”

The BBC presenter turned actor, 38, is four months into the 12-month run of the debut British tour of a musical featuring original music and lyrics by Canadian rock star and Grammy Award winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and a book by Garry Marshall and the 1990 film’s screenwriter, J F Lawton.

Direction and choreography is by two-time Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell, for whom Ore auditioned. “I was aware of the show going into the West End in 2019, where it was such a massive success, and there’s always hype when a musical goes on tour from the West End,” he says.

“The audition call came through in February last year, and it’s just crazy because the life of an actor means you’re a freelance really and you never know what will be around the corner, but to get that call come through when it did can make it quite scary.

“I’d already done a couple of auditions in front of Americans, but Jerry Mitchell is such a charismatic man, so it’s intimidating. He’s got an excellent poker face, but I made him laugh – which is not always good, but in this case it was.”

Amber Davies’s Vivian Ward, Oliver Savile’s Edward Lewis and Ore Oduba’s Barnard Thompson in the announcement poster for the tour of Pretty Woman The Musical

The musical adds another level to Pretty Woman. “I think you have to be aware, as we say at the beginning, that this is a story set in the Eighties, but if you just did the movie on stage, it wouldn’t quite work,” says Ore.

“What Jerry has done is add meat to that story, going through the rom-com we love but aspiring to be something more, then adding the incredible choreography and a wonderful new score, with some beautiful songs by Bryan Adams.

“What we didn’t know, on the very last day of rehearsals, when things get to wind down after a busy four weeks, was why the resident director was standing gingerly at the door of the rehearsal room. He looked kind of nervous, then said, ‘Bryan Adams is here’!”

What could have been “quite a relaxed day, collecting things in bags” was transformed. “It became an exciting day, performing in front of Bryan, and he loved it. That really set us up to go off into the country,” says Ore.

He embraces the challenge each week of being on tour. “What’s wonderful about touring – and I’ve been doing it for seven years, which was never planned – is how, at the start of each week, you get a brand now burst of energy from the show rolling into a new town, looking forward to the reaction you’ll get at each place,” he says.

Dance moves: 2016 Strictly champion Ore Oduba’s Happy Man

“From the production point of view, you really get into it. You start by sticking to what you rehearse, but at the same time, when you have a show that’s such a crowd pleaser, and with me playing the narrator, you do get different reactions and a different energy from the audience that we like to play with.

“Pretty Woman transcends time and culture; it’s just in our fabric, and it’s not just nostalgia. People will want to dial into that, so there are touch points, but at the end of the day, it’s an incredible new musical with great new music and a story that people love, which we bring alive every night, transporting them into a different world.

“That world may be different from today, and you may have to put today’s world aside and put your faith in the story.”

Happy Man sums up Ore’s experience on tour. “Taking on a job, it’s about positivity, especially if I’m going to be doing it for a year, where the energy pushes us forward,” he says. “I’m looking forward to 12 months of positivity!”

Pretty Woman The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, February 20 to 24, 7.30pm, plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office:

Copyright of The Press, York

Remember that film? Now Pretty Woman: The Musical heads for Grand Opera Opera next February with ‘love story for the ages’

Danny Mac’s Edward and Aimie Atkinson’s Vivian in the West End production of Pretty Woman: The Musical. Picture: Helen Maybanks

THE debut UK tour of Pretty Woman: The Musical will play the Grand Opera House, York, from February 20 to 24 next year.

Billed as “Hollywood’s ultimate rom-com, live on stage”, the show features original music and lyrics by Canadian rock star and Grammy Award winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and a book by Garry Marshall and the 1990 film’s screenwriter, J F Lawton, with direction and choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell.

Tickets for the 7.30pm evening performances and 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees in York are newly on sale at

The West End production continues to play at the Savoy Theatre, London, taking bookings until June 11 2023. The British and Irish tour will open on October 17 at the Birmingham Alexandra  Theatre; the tour cast is yet to be announced.

Should the Richard Gere-Julia Roberts movie have escaped your attention, here is a quick refresher course on Pretty Woman’s story: Once upon a time in the late 1980s, Vivian met Edward and her life changed forever.

Or put it another way, in a tale based somewhat loosely on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, rich New York corporate raider Edward Lewis hires free-spirited Hollywood prostitute Vivian Ward to accompany him to a series of social events, only to fall in love with her. How will they bridge the chasm between their worlds?

Danny Mac’s Edward Lewis and Aimie Atkinson’s Vivian Ward in a scene from Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Savoy Theatre, London

Move forward to 2023-2024, when the tour publicity invites you to “be swept up in their romance in this dazzlingly theatrical take on a love story for the ages – and get to know these iconic characters in a whole new way – in a sensational show guaranteed to lift your spirits and light up your heart”.

The musical also features the Roy Orbison and Bill Dees composition Oh, Pretty Woman, the Big O’s August 1964 chart topper that inspired Garry Marshall’s film.

Atlantic Records has released Pretty Woman: The Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording), a soundtrack album produced by Adams and Vallance.

The show has  scenic design by David Rockwell; costumes by Tom Rogers, from the original Broadway designs by Gregg Barnes; lighting design by Kenneth Posner and Philip S Rosenberg; sound design by John Shivers; hair design by Josh Marquette and music supervision, arrangements and orchestrations by Will Van Dyke. 

Pretty Woman; The Musical received its world premiere at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre in March 2018 before transferring to Broadway, where it ran at the Nederlander Theatre. A German production opened in Hamburg at the Stage Theater an der Elbe in September 2019 and a USA tour began in October 2021. 

The Ambassador Theatre Group, the Grand Opera House owners, are among the tour’s producers.

The artwork for Pretty Woman: The Musical, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, next February