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No doubt there’s a politically correct opinion of “Pretty Woman,” Garry Marshall’s stupendously popular 1990 movie romcom. I wouldn’t know: I can’t figure out whether Degrading to Women takes intersectional precedence over Sex Work Is Good. Fortunately, to lift a line from my worthy colleagues in the judicial branch, we need not reach this issue in order to render judgment on the new musical version of Mr. Marshall’s film. Not that “Pretty Woman” is terrible—it’s just mediocre, albeit to a mind-boggling degree….
Of course you already know the well-worn plot of “Pretty Woman,” a big-bucks update of “Cinderella” in which an obscenely rich businessman (Andy Karl) hires a trashy but lovable Hollywood hooker (Samantha Barks) to be his round-the-clock escort for a hectic week of deal-making, at the end of which they fly off into the sunset in his private jet and live wealthily ever after. Since this is a safety-first commodity musical whose sole purpose is to extract cash from middle-aged fans of the film by reminding them of how much they liked it once upon a time, Mr. Marshall and J.F. Lawton, who wrote the screenplay, stuck to their script with immovable rigidity. The only thing new (so to speak) is the pop-rock score by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, an exercise in applied cliché coinage …
Ms. Barks, who has evidently been hired to impersonate Julia Roberts, does so with impressive accuracy and no trace of originality. Mr. Karl, who lit up the stage two seasons ago in “Groundhog Day,” is an immensely likable performer who has no notion of how to portray an emotionally stunted squillionaire who is liberated by love….
Any other week, “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” would have locked up Broadway’s booby prize, but it looks positively adequate by comparison with “Pretty Woman.” A spoofy little musical about a 40-year-old Manhattan stockbroker (Mitchell Jarvis) who loses his job, returns to deepest New Jersey, moves back in with his sexy mom (Marilu Henner) and decides to restart Juggernaut, his high-school garage band, “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” was made for summer theaters. What it’s doing on Broadway is hard to figure, but the members of the cast of “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” are so amiable that it’s not too unpleasant—up to a point—to spend an evening watching them tell corny jokes and sing Mark Allen’s lame but innocuous songs….
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Because of Aretha Franklin’s death, the print version of today’s Journal contains only an abridged version of my Pretty Woman review. To read my complete reviews of both shows, go here.