Every movie anyone on the planet ever liked will eventually be turned into a Broadway musical, to the point where I’m quite certain that we will one day be privy to Howard the Duck: The Musical. But Pretty Woman: The Musical—coming to Broadway next July—has some features that could make it a hit.
Tony winning director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell is quite well known for helping turn films into musicals. (He directed-choreographed Kinky Boots and Legally Blonde, among many other credits.) The script is by the film’s late director, Garry Marshall, and the film’s writer, J. F. Lawton, not by outsiders unfamiliar with the material. Tony winner Steve Kazee plays the wealthy Edward (the Richard Gere part), Samantha Barks is the hooker he hires, Vivian (the character ingrained into pop culture by Julia Roberts), and my old pal, Tony nominated Orfeh, is her best friend, Kit (Laura San Giacomo in the movie), and they all have singing voices that sound effortlessly powerful.
What’s more, a lot of tourists see a familiar movie title on a marquee and feel the urge to plop down money to see the latest incarnation of it—though for every The Producers or Hairspray (which Mitchell choreographed), there’s a High Fidelity or Ghost: The Musical, so there are no guarantees.
The score is by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, and judging from a presentation at City Winery last Thursday, it definitely has that Bryan Adams-y sound. At the event, Orfeh sang a number about taking Vivien around Rodeo Drive and helping her get clothes and self esteem. It’s a rocker with some “Hot Blooded”-esque sounding licks, plus a pretty part and a boffo ending.
There was also “Beautiful,” in which Vivien is evolving and is starting to know it, as that self esteem keeps building, and we also got a romantic duet—and as of now, there are no fewer than 20 other songs in the show! Maybe this could be Pretty Woman: The Rock Opera.
No, it’s a musical—and, as lead producer Paula Wagner said after the numbers, “It is a journey of female empowerment, and male empowerment, too.” That’s a lot of empowerment. But Kazee agreed that it’s not just Vivien who blooms, it’s Edward, as he realizes his strength is not in his wallet, it’s in his emotions.
Mitchell said the show is family-safe because he wants his two nieces to see it—and Marshall had a similar wish—but he swears this Pretty Woman won’t be about nuns. (It’s a Cinderella story, but I guess the Rodgers and Hammerstein connection ends there.) There are prostitutes in the chorus—people playing them, I mean.
Also, there will be an “I want…” song for Vivien called “Anywhere But Here,” explaining that she didn’t choose to be a prostitute, and an Act Two number in which she sings her back story and reveals just how she became a sex worker. Wagner told me the show will go beyond the old “Madonna/whore” treatment of women, and present a complex character.
So, while Pretty Woman will hardly showcase the first singing and dancing hookers on Broadway, will it be the best such vehicle? The safest? The weirdest? The shiniest? The most prostie-negative? That still remains to be seen. But she’s definitely working hard for your money.
Pretty Woman: The Musical begins previews on July 20 and opens August 16.
The Night Crowd Is the Right Crowd
In nightlife—where “Hey, ‘ho” has long been a compliment—regulars usually march to a zanier, more persistent and daring beat than those in the workaday world, so I asked a few of them who don’t always get enough public attention what they’ve been up to—and thinking lately. They gave me an earful.
Said the singer Xavier: “I’ve been writing and recording for a dance project called Bodymusic with Vito Roccoforte of the Rapture and a producer named Bosq, using the moniker Christian Holiday. We’ve got releases out on Razor-N-Tape and Defected. I sang backing vocals on Bright Light Bright Light’s newest album, Choreography. I also released my own cover of Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” on the Tummy Touch label. Coming up on February 16, I have my annual Ladies of Soul Tribute at Joe’s Pub, with some killer singers joining me as guests, and John Roberts, aka Linda Belcher on Fox’s Bob’s Burgers, too!” But other than that, there’s nothing much going on in his life, lol.
I asked another talented singer, the exotic Kim David Smith, about his doings, and he said, “I’ve been mining the Weimar repertoire for years now, and love putting strange programs together full of old and new music. I’m preparing for a concert of 1920’s and ’30s music at the Neue Galerie in March, and am busily working on a new show, which will run all summer in Provincetown.”
Drag performer Holly Box Springs (who performs at the Ritz, Barracuda, and elsewhere) has her own excitement going on. Says Holly: “This past year has truly been the definition of a ‘rollercoaster of emotions,’ from working my second summer out in Fire Island with Gurlesque to shooting the first season of Shade: Queens of NYC. [With all her gigs], I learned patience and that the pressure of competing on the small screen was a lot harder than expected. Also, during filming, I got to work with and spend time with some of NYC’s busiest queens because it’s rare that we all get to be in the same room.”
Holly continues: “One story that sticks out is a recent one where [fellow drag queen] Tina Burner and I went to Mexico to perform at a friend’s 40th birthday, and during one of my numbers, I decided to open all the curtains in the small room we were in, and the staff lost it because there was a private party outside. Then I decided to run full speed out of the doors and slam myself into one of the windows, because why not, and in the process scared the man to death who had a taco truck outside. This is why we do what we do!”
Another drag Holly, Holly Dae (who performs all over the place, including at Monster and Pieces): “Lately, as drag is evolving all over the country, so is my own personal career. I am learning I love to produce, create, and organize bigger, better production value drag shows. I love going beyond and bigger with people’s expectations of drag, and I’m finally able to use my theater background.”
It’s not all partying, though. Sometimes the parties are for charity! I asked promoter Frankie Sharp, who hosts the Tuesday night Mary event at Club Cumming and is soon starting MAGIC Sundays at the Moxy Hotel—about working last year on a SAGE Table, which brings together different generations of LGBTs to share ideas.
He said it’s a night “where you actually put your phone down and exchange stories of what growing up gay was like and what our experience being queer is like in today’s world. There is a rich tradition and history in gay culture, and it’s important for young people to get in touch with it and get in touch with people that fought for us by simply living their lives. And conversely, there’s a lot to learn from the youth culture, too. We are so much more alike than we are different. I love hearing stories of other people’s mistakes, tragedies, loves, and what made them inspired in life. In the end, we’re all just trying to love, be loved, be understood and be safe. I think SAGE really fosters that idea.”
On a lighter note, Lisa Levy—who has done pseudo-therapy as performance—informed me that she was crowned Miss Subways last year, and as such, she’s really shaking thing up in the metro system. In fact, her conduct code includes rules like, “If someone better looking than you is standing, you must give them your seat” and “Begging for money is allowed, but only if the beggar is festively dressed.” It sounds like for good looking, well-dressed people, subway riding will be the ultimate VIP room this year.
By the way, a chic place to be was the Malan Breton show at the 42nd Street Cipriani last Thursday. The Taiwanese-born Breton trotted a sumptuous array of glittery dresses, long coats, beautiful patterns, and bold designs down the runway, telling me after the show that his inspiration was comic books, but he wanted to play up the women’s roles more, while making the men less stiff than traditionally presented. One female model had been extra heroic: When one of her shoes malfunctioned, she simply tossed it off and triumphantly kept strutting.