Stage

Pretty Woman: The Musical Coming to Broadway at the Hobby Center

The company of Pretty Woman: The Musical
The company of Pretty Woman: The Musical Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

In her first national tournament, Jesse Davidson stars as Vivian in Pretty Woman: The Musical now on its way to the Hobby Center in the musical adaptation of the 1990 movie with an ending that some found fairly unrealistic while many others embraced as a romantic triumph.

Or you could acknowledge both views and just enjoy a happy ending, now accompanied by song.

In this version of Pretty Woman, the strength of Vivian is underlined, Davidson says. Businessman and corporate raider Edward Lewis doesn't just save prostitute Vivian Ward. In the end she saves herself and him as well, Davidson says.

"I think this version of Pretty Woman really highlights that strong female leading character who has a point of view, fights for what she wants and isn’t saved by the love interest. Vivian really chooses herself through the whole show."

Davidson says she connects to Vivian's character in several ways. "Vivian is a dreamer; she’s definitely someone who has a big dream and isn’t afraid to take ownership of that dream and to fight for it. I also think she has a very goofy side and a great sense of humor."

Edward is played by Tony Award nominee Adam Pascal (Rent, School of Rock) with the book by  director Garry Marshall and screenwriter J. F. Lawton. Tony Award®-winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde) helms with an original score by Grammy® winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance (“Summer of ’69”, “Heaven”).

Vivian's best friend Kit DeLuca is a much more developed character in the musical, Davidson says.  Also, there's a new  character called The Happy Man who takes on multiple roles throughout the show and serves as the fairy godfather in this Cinderella story.

"We’re able to add in of a magical feel that the movie doesn’t take on because the movie’s a little bit more literal. But because it’s a musical we’re allowed to sprinkle in some magic," Davidson says.

Davidson, who grew up in Covington, Connecticut, just two hours away from New York City and Boston, started dancing and piano lessons at 6 and added voice lessons at 8 at the suggestion of her piano teacher because she couldn't sit still and kept singing along to what she was playing. She got her BFA from Penn State, moved to New York City and since then — except for a period during the pandemic - has made it her base.

The biggest initial challenge she's had on her first tour has been finding the stamina to keep performing. Now, she says, she feels a lot more comfortable with life on the road. Cast members are still tested every day they have a show — "which is good because we’re able to catch it early if somebody has COVID and the whole company doesn’t go down," Davidson said.

The other related effect of COVID-19 is that additional understudies have been hired to cover roles if someone gets sick, Davidson says. 

Costumes have been reimagined from the movie leading to seven quick  changes for Davidson in the role. While the stage dimensions — they  bring a deck — stay the same from theater to theater, "Backstage sometimes it’s a little bit of puzzle work trying to fit everything in."

She encourages everyone to come see the show. "It's just so much fun."

Performances are scheduled for January 3-8 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For more information, call 800-982-2787 or visit thehobbycenter.org or broadwayatthehobbycenter.com. $35-$95.
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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