Pretty Woman: The Musical review, Piccadilly Theatre – Good performances can’t save this shallow, outdated vision of sex work

Three decades on from the 1990 film starring Julia Roberts, our understanding of the world of sex work has changed immeasurably. You wouldn’t know that from watching this

Alexandra Pollard@alexjpollard
Monday 02 March 2020 20:36
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Danny Mac and Aimie Atkinson in Pretty Woman: The Musical
Danny Mac and Aimie Atkinson in Pretty Woman: The Musical

★★☆☆☆

There are a whole lot of men behind Pretty Woman: The Musical. Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance wrote the songs. Garry Marshall and JF Lawton – the duo behind the popular 1990 film – wrote the script. Jerry Mitchell directed and choreographed. You have to get past 22 Jims, Jerrys and Johns before a single female name appears on the credited creative team – US props supervisor Kathleen Fabian.

This might explain why this new musical, which opened in the US in 2018 before closing a year later, offers up such a shallow and outdated vision of sex work, female agency and womanhood. In the original – a wealthy businessman (Edward, played in the film by Richard Gere and here by Hollyoaks alumnus Danny Mac) employs a Hollywood Boulevard sex worker (Julia Roberts’s Vivian, valiantly taken on here by the fizzy Aimie Atkinson) to accompany him on a week of social functions. They bargain. They bicker. They fall in love. Vivian goes on a shopping spree, scrubs up and quits the game. She was always better than that world, the film seems to say.

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