Pretty Woman: The Musical opened August 16 at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre, bringing the iconic 1990 love story—about Hollywood sex worker Vivian who melts the heart of cutthroat businessman Edward—to the stage.
Playbill greeted the stars of the musical, Samantha Barks in her Broadway debut and three-time Tony nominee Andy Karl, as well as director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell and the company of the electric adaptation on the red carpet at their afterparty celebration at New York City’s Zigfield Ballroom.
Pretty Woman marks Mitchell’s third directorial outing with a screen-to-stage path (having directed and choreographed Legally Blonde The Musical and Kinky Boots). But the two-time Tony winner is discerning when signing on to a new project. “I have to fall in love with the characters and think that they're a little larger than life, that they might break into song and dance,” he told Playbill. “I also look for vulnerability in the characters because I think that's a really important trait for us as an audience to want to fall in love with them and want to root for them.
“I think if there's a theme that runs through my shows it might be a beating heart,” said Mitchell. “I tend to lean towards heartfelt material. I find that heart, humor, and joy are not easily brought together in a musical; it takes a lot of work.”
And thanks to Karl and Barks, who made her Broadway bow to critical acclaim, the joy explodes and the chemistry crackles.
Karl joined the cast as Edward after the Chicago out-of-town tryout at the Oriental Theatre in spring 2018. “It's interesting coming off of last year in Groundhog Day—every trick I had in the book putting it out onstage. This one is more reserved but deservedly so.”
And, of course, he works alongside his wife Orfeh who plays Vivian's pal Kit. “I get to do a lot more with Kit than I have with some other characters,” she said. “I'm loud and raucous and that's the way people like me, and you give the people what they want.”
“You pray when you're doing a musical that the audience really connects, and they are,” she continued. “It's like going and doing a rock concert eight times a week.”
One past audience member, the film’s Oscar-nominated star Julia Roberts enjoyed the August 2 performance of the show. Barks thanks her stars she didn’t know ahead of time that Roberts was watching her. “If I had known she was in you would have found me shaking in the corner. She came and she just hugged me for a minute and we just didn't let go,” said Barks.
Having grown up with the film, Barks relishes being able to play her own Vivian and to work alongside Karl. “I love Andy. His spirit. He's an incredible man but also his talent,” she said. “We're such good friends, we're so comfortable with each other so it means in every way we play and we try things and we have fun and it makes the intimate stuff easy because it's somebody you're already close to and you have complete trust in.”
That feeling of family and friendship permeates the cast.
“This cast is a family,” said Tommy Bracco, who returns to the Nederlander (after making his debut in Newsies) to play bell hop Giulio. “We've had the best time putting this up.”
And, as company members Ezra Knight, Robby Clater, Jason Danieley, Eric Anderson, Anna Eilinsfeld, and Ellyn Marie Marsh told us: much of that is credit to Mitchell. “My favorite line in Pretty Woman is ‘With confidence and attitude you can walk into any room just like you own the place, you're beautiful’—and that's what Jerry brings into the room when you work with him," Bracco says. "He wants you to walk into the room like you own the place and he wants to put that into the show.”
And no one feels more empowered than Barks. “It's about this inner woman coming forward,” said Barks. “Girl power.”