Broadway loves whores. This is true. Sex workers have long been a staple of Broadway musicals, before and after the New York theater district itself became a popular zone for streetwalkers (see also: HBO’s The Deuce). The list of prostitute-themed shows includes Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Man of la Mancha, Sweet Charity, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Irma La Douce, Gigi, Jekyll & Hyde, New Girl in Town, The Life, Ilya Darling, Tenderloin and House of Flowers. Joining this artistic brothel in Fall 2018, at a theater yet to be announced, will be Pretty Woman: The Musical, a stage adaptation of the hit 1990 romantic comedy about a hooker with a heart of gold and a john with hair of grey and a wallet of green.
Playing Hollywood streetwalker and kinky-boot icon Vivian Ward, the role that made Julia Roberts a megastar, will be Samantha Barks, a Manx minx who rose to prominence when she placed third on the 2008 BBC reality show I’d Do Anything, a public audition to play the role of Nancy—you guessed it, a prostitute—in Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! She also played Éponine in the film version of Les Miz (a role she had played in the West End) and Cathy in a London revival of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years. In the part originated by Richard Gere will be Steve Kazee, who won a 2012 Tony Award for his leading role as the sensitive hunk in Once.
Like many recent musical versions of films—such as last season’s Groundhog Day and the upcoming Frozen and Mean Girls—Pretty Woman features a script by the original movie’s auteurs: its director, the late Garry Marshall, and screenwriter, J.F. Lawton. The original score is by craggy Canadian rocker Bryan Adams and his longtime songwriting partner Jim Vallance, whose collaborations include “Run to You,” “Heaven” and “Summer of ’69.” Although Adams has never written a musical-theater score, it is a fact that his first major music job, back in the late 1970s, was as the lead singer for a rock group called Sweeney Todd, so there’s that.
Want to see the best musical theater in New York? Get tickets to upcoming Broadway shows.