Songwriter Jim Vallance takes readers through his and Bryan Adams' score for the musical adaptation of the classic movie. Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, the show is currently running at the Nederlander Theatre and the cast album is available for download now.
“WELCOME TO HOLLYWOOD”
Bryan and I met director Jerry Mitchell in London in August 2015 to discuss the possibility of collaborating on Pretty Woman: The Musical. We spent an hour in a little pizza restaurant in London’s West End, getting acquainted and discussing the project. Looking back, Jerry was taking a huge gamble to consider us as composers. We were new to this, we’d never written a musical before, we were well outside our comfort zone ... but perhaps that’s what appealed to him?
To get a sense of things, we asked Jerry to “walk us through” the opening number, including a description of characters, set design, choreography—everything as he envisioned it. Jerry’s a very animated and articulate fellow. He virtually “performed” the scene for us, right there in the restaurant booth. By the end of our conversation we could almost picture the moment on stage: the Happy Man character walking down the street, greeting strangers, welcoming everyone to Hollywood.
Song inspiration didn’t strike immediately, but a week or two later, back in Canada, an idea occurred ... just a few bars of lyric and melody to begin with, the key phrase being, “Welcome To Hollywood”. I recorded a demo track and I sent it to Bryan in London. He liked it, and we began sending emails back and forth, each of us contributing lyrics and melody until the song was completed.
On November 1, 2015, we met Jerry again, this time at his apartment in New York along with producer Paula Wagner and book-writer J. F. Lawton. We played them our demo for “Welcome to Hollywood,”, and another demo for “Long Way Home”. The short version of the story is: They liked what they heard and we were more-or-less hired on the spot.
“ANYWHERE BUT HERE”
As newcomers to Broadway, Bryan and I were on a steep learning curve. Among other things, we were alerted to the importance of the “I Want” song, which traditionally appears early in Act I. This is where the lead character reveals her/his motivating desire, setting the emotional parameters for the rest of the show.
Writing an appropriate “I Want” song for Pretty Woman presented a significant challenge. Over a two year period we wrote three different songs for this scene before arriving at “Anywhere But Here.”
I quite liked our second attempt and I was disappointed when Jerry asked us to write something to replace it. But in the end, Jerry was right. We ended up writing a better song.
“SOMETHING ABOUT HER (PREAMBLE)”
This is Edward’s first song of the show. Vivian exits the stage with his car keys, and a flummoxed Edward sings, “What the hell just happened? ...”, which always gets a laugh from the audience. This is also where the Happy Man morphs into Mr. Thompson, the manager of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
“SOMETHING ABOUT HER”
Our first draft of “Something About Her” was based on Edward’s quizzical observation of Vivian in the hotel room, after they’d agreed to the initial payment of $300 for one night: “Look at her: She’s happy, she’s pretty and she’s fun.” That lyric remained in place for a year or more, until Jerry decided the song should be more about how Edward feels, rather than a mere observation. Hence the new opening lyric, “I don’t know how I got here, she took me by surprise...”
“LUCKIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD”
This is where Vivian expresses her joy and disbelief at successfully negotiating a $3,000 deal to stay with Edward for the rest of the week.
This was the last song we wrote for the project, towards the end of the “out-of-town previews” in Chicago. The previous song to occupy this spot (“Look At Me Now”) was an up-tempo number in the style of “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes. But despite serving the scene for nearly two years, Jerry eventually decided the song wasn’t right. I agree. “Look At Me Now” never quite settled in. It was the one song that didn’t seem to fit.
It was a real challenge coming up with a better song, but we finally hit upon the idea of writing something in a gospel style ... I mean, how better to express joy and exuberance than gospel music?
This is a straight-out rock ‘n’ roll number that highlights Orfeh’s vocal chops! Rodeo Drive, baby!
“ANYWHERE BUT HERE (REPRISE)”
This is the scene where the snooty sales girls ask Vivian to leave the clothing store. This spot was originally occupied by a short reprise of “Look At Me Now.” But with that song gone, we crafted a reprise from our “I Want” song.
“ON A NIGHT LIKE TONIGHT”
As a composer on this project I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to write in a variety of music styles, from rock to jazz to gospel. This particular song is a tango. It includes an extended dance sequence orchestrated by Will, choreography by Jerry, and brilliantly performed (in our 2018 Chicago and New York productions) by Eric Anderson and Tommy Bracco. I’ve watched this sequence a hundred times, and I never grow tired of it.
“DON’T FORGET TO DANCE”
Speaking of divergent styles, this number harkens back to the Big Band “swing” era of the 1940s. The song has a repeating “verse-bridge” structure with an extended dance break in the middle, orchestrated by Will and choreographed by Jerry. Scarlett, the Voltaire restaurant’s vocalist, pointedly reminds Edward that “the view from the top ain’t what it’s all cracked up to be.”
Similar to Vivian’s epiphany above, this is the moment that Edward decides to reconsider his life choices and make some changes.
This song remained more-or-less “as written” for a year or two. The main changes involved additional “bridge” sections that were written, then removed, then added again, then removed again—all in pursuit of a perfect closing number for Act I.
“WELCOME TO OUR WORLD (MORE CHAMPAGNE)”
This is the opening number for Act II—another critical song-placement moment for Broadway.
This particular scene is staged at a polo match in the Hamptons, populated with snobby, snooty people, the antithesis of who Vivian is. Edward’s lawyer, Philip Stuckey, makes a feature appearance here, soliciting (in song) questionable donations for a mildly fraudulent charitable fund on behalf of the Senator from Hawaii.
This is Stuckey’s only song in the musical, Jerry having decided to delete a previous scene with a song titled “Money Makes the Man.” It was a fun song, arranged in a Barbershop Quartet style. The lyric humorously referenced Stuckey’s greed and avarice without making him completely unlikable. Personally, I miss that song in the musical, but perhaps it’ll resurface at some point in the future.
“THIS IS MY LIFE”
For this scene, the original directorial request called for a country song (Vivian grew up in rural Georgia). In fact, we wrote two different country songs for this spot, approximately a year part, one titled “Why Me” and the other titled, “It Never Works Out That Way.” I liked both songs, but Jerry encouraged us to write yet another song. And he was right—we wrote a better one.
“NEVER GIVE UP ON A DREAM”
This song includes my personal favorite lyric in the show: “Kick me out in the cold, I’ll make it / Squeeze me into a mold, I’ll break it / If there’s a fork in the road, I’ll take it ... never give up on a dream.”
“YOU AND I”
For this scene, director Jerry Mitchell asked us to write a love song without using the word “love.” “You And I” is sung by Edward during the opera scene, where he first begins to “see the wonders of the world” through Vivian’s eyes. The song weaves in and out of Verdi’s La Traviatta, transitioning to a gala dance scene before ending back at Edward’s Beverly Wilshire Hotel suite ... brilliantly staged and choreographed by Jerry.
“I CAN’T GO BACK”
This is the moment when Vivian decides to leave Hollywood Boulevard behind, regardless what the future might hold. She’s seen a better life and she’s determined to move in that direction and never “go back.” The music is driven by a pulsing synthesizer, but the song also works as a traditional rock arrangement, as proven when Samantha sang “I Can’t Go Back” with Bryan and his band at London’s O2 arena.
A short transition piece that comes after Edward’s revised business arrangement with Mr. Morse.
“LONG WAY HOME”
This is one of the first songs we presented to the director and producers in 2015. Except for a word or two, it’s remained unchanged since that time.
This is the closing number. As songwriters, the plan was to send the audience home humming a melody and singing lyrics they could remember. “Together Forever” never fails to get the audience clapping, and on their feet for the bows and outro.