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Hollywood’s ultimate rom-com, live on stage.

Based on the still-adored 1990 movie that turned Julia Roberts into a superstar, the musical stage version of Pretty Woman has become quite a phenomenon in its own right, with record-breaking runs on Broadway and in the West End.

Co-written by the film’s director, the late Garry Marshall - best known as the man behind 1970s TV hits Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy - the show comes complete with original music & lyrics by pop superstar Bryan Adams (and his long-term collaborator, Jim Vallance). Two-time Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell both choreographs and directs the production. Amber Davies, Oliver Savile and Ore Oduba take the lead roles.

Fresh from a successful run in London’s West End, an all-new production of Pretty Woman: The Musical kicks off its first-ever UK tour in Birmingham this month. Former TV presenter and Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba tells What’s On why he’s a very happy man to be joining the cast as, er, Happy Man... 

Based on the 1990 blockbuster movie that turned Julia Roberts into a superstar, Pretty Woman: The Musical has become quite a phenomenon in its own right, with record-breaking runs on Broadway and in the West End, a US tour and performances in cities around the world.


Co-written by the film’s director, Garry Marshall - best-known as the man behind 1970s TV hits Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy - the show features original music and lyrics by pop superstar Bryan Adams and his long-term collaborator, Jim Vallance, and is directed and choreographed by two-time Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell.
The A-listers all bring their A-game to proceedings, according to Garry’s widow, Barbara, who claims the idea of putting the movie on stage was hers. 
“I kept saying to him ‘You know, this could be a musical,’” she laughs, “and he’d say ‘Yeah, okay’, but nothing happened.”


It took another 15 years for her husband to start working on the script. Sadly, he died before his dream of having a show on Broadway was fulfilled, but Barbara is convinced he’d love the finished article.
“He loved revisiting the story and transforming it into a musical, adding the songs and changing some of the structure. Had someone told him it would be such a hit around the world, he wouldn’t have believed it. Not only did it make it to Broadway, it’s bringing joy to so many people in so many other places.”
The next one of those places is Birmingham, where the refreshed show kicks off its first UK tour this month. It stars Amber Davies as Vivian Ward (the role made famous by Julia Roberts), Oliver Savile as Edward Lewis (played by Richard Gere in the movie) and Ore Oduba as Happy Man/Mr Thompson. The former TV presenter’s star has been in the ascendancy ever since he won Strictly Come Dancing in 2016, which not only enabled viewers to see him in a new light but gave him the confidence to push his career in a new direction. He happily admits performing in the likes of Grease and The Rocky Horror Show has been a dream come true - a notion that ties in nicely with his latest character.
“I can’t believe Strictly was seven years ago,” says Ore. “The memories are still so strong, even though life has carried on and there’s been all these other roles since then. It’s interesting, because I guess Strictly was all about dreams, and what’s lovely about my role in Pretty Woman is that Happy Man is the narrator of the show and is all about dreams and magic - and if you buy into the magic, your dreams can become reality. I get to sell that every night.
“What was crazy about doing Strictly was that it was beyond my wildest dreams to be doing this professionally, but I remember being in that show and loving being on stage, thinking what an amazing thing it would be to get to do it every day.”


As much as it might seem a strange move for the former TV presenter (he helmed CBBC’s Newsround and regularly appeared on BBC Breakfast, among other programmes), there’s a link between what he does now and what he did as a youngster.  
“ I guess the last four years working in musical theatre makes sense to me, even though it still blows my mind. It makes sense because when I was younger, I spent a lot of time on stage - I was in every school production. If I wasn’t playing sport, I was on stage singing or performing somewhere, so it’s wonderful that I’ve been able, 20 years down the track, to unlock something that was always a massive passion.”
It’s just as well it’s a passion, as the Pretty Woman tour lasts over a year. Ore’s only break - if you can call it that - will be to do pantomime over Christmas. At the moment he’s the excited puppy (“it’s such a wonderful experience to be thrown into a brand-new production, because it’s an explosion for the senses”), but he knows it’ll be hard work the longer it goes on, not least because he’s on stage for the bulk of the show.
He’s speaking slowly and choosing his words carefully as he tries not to explain. 
“Happy Man is kind of ever-present, and then there’s a lovely moment when he becomes Mr Thompson. So I do play a couple - if not, multiple - roles; my guy pops up regularly. That’s just to give you a bit of a tease and not give too much away. But I’m there quite a lot!”
Ore’s especially excited about fuelling the audience’s imagination as Happy Man (“he’s in the heart of the show, as well as its message about living your dream”). He’s also clearly fired up for the big dance numbers.
“There are so many wonderful messages within the show, and my narrator part as Happy Man gets to relay all of that. But then there are also some fabulous dance numbers and really lovely song & dance moments - this might be the biggest dance I’ve done since Strictly!”
Ore even has a link to the writer of much of the music, and not just because he’s a big fan of Bryan Adams.
“Funnily enough, I remember interviewing him on BBC One in 2015 because he was doing the New Year’s Eve fireworks show and I was hosting the programme. He was doing all his hits - Summer of 69, Run To You, and the rest. Fast forward eight years and I’m singing his songs!
“I’m really excited because he’s had such a successful career writing incredible songs. I remember watching Pretty Woman in London, and there are some really strong numbers in the show - absolute belters - and I think people are going to love that element of it, too.”
Ore got to see the musical just before the end of its London run earlier this year, but admits he dragged his feet on the original movie.
“I’d never seen the film until last year. I have a thing about classic movies, in that I’m always playing catch-up with a lot of iconic titles. My issue is that if you missed it the first time around, everyone else has seen it, so it’s very rare that you can find someone else who’s in your boat. Every time you suggest ‘Maybe we could watch Pretty Woman’, everyone else goes ‘Seen it!’
“So I watched it for the first time quite recently, and then again prior to rehearsals, and it really got the tastebuds sizzling. I think what’s wonderful about the musical is that it’s a really gorgeous tribute to a film that people know and love. But whether you’ve seen the movie or not, it’s a big night out for everybody, and we guarantee you’re going to have a good time!”

by Steve Adams

Pretty Woman shows at The Alexandra, Birmingham, from Tuesday 17 to Saturday 28 October. The show then returns to the Midlands in 2024 to play the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, from Monday 15 to Saturday 20 July

on Fri, 22 Sep 2023

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