Broadway is back in Providence, and Providence seems pretty happy about it.

This week, the Providence Performing Arts Center is hosting its first Broadway tour in 19 months. PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL officially opened to a very full house Tuesday night.

The musical is based on the 1990 movie of the same name starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. It’s the story of Vivian, the down-on-her-luck hooker, and Edward, the cold-hearted businessman who engages Vivian’s services for a week while he’s in Los Angeles. The engagement is more about companionship for business events than it is anything else, but things take a turn toward the romantic.

Well, sort of.

The show opens with a view of the Hollywood sign from the back. A bit tattered, with rust stains here and there. The side of Hollywood you’re not supposed to see. It’s there we meet Vivian and her people. Neon lights, tattoo parlors, skimpy outfits, seedy bars, apartments above stores.

In walks Edward. His lawyer’s high-end car is stuck down the street, and he needs help. Vivian needs rent money. She knows how to drive a stick shift, and away we go, to the Beverly Hilton where Vivian is definitely a fish out of water.

The show is fun and energetic. The sets are simple and at the same time spectacular. The costumes are garish for the street people, gorgeous for the high society folks. The dance numbers are fabulous and great to watch.

There are great performances too, not the least of which is Olivia Valli’s as Vivian. She is spot-on with a terrific voice to boot.

But it’s a musical, and there’s really nothing distinctive about it. No real style. It’s hard to tell if it’s meant to be styled like RENT or if it just sounds that way because Adam Pascal, who plays Edward, originated the role of Roger in that Broadway phenomenon.

There’s a lot of audience appeal in the show. When Vivian enters one scene wearing a red evening gown and white satin gloves – the same as those worn by Julia Roberts in the movie – the audience burst into enthusiastic applause.

There are two show-stealers in this one. Jessica Crouch shines as Vivian’s roommate, Kit De Luca. She’s funny and she can belt with the best of them. Kyle Taylor Parker pops up in all sorts of roles. He is billed as “Happy Man,” but we see him on the street as one of Vivian’s friends, in the hotel as Bernard, the manager, as the kiss-up manager of an upscale clothing store on Rodeo Drive, and even in the orchestra pit as the conductor. He goes from character to character with ease, and he’s downright enchanting.

And special nods to Amma Osei and Matthew Vincent Taylor, both members of the ensemble. When Osei sings opera, she is powerful and beautiful, and she brings down the house. Taylor is absolutely hilarious in the scene where he plays the bellhop.

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL is pure escapism, and an enjoyable way to celebrate the return of live theater to the Providence Performing Arts Center.

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL runs through Saturday, October 16 at PPAC. For tickets and information, call 401.421.ARTS or visit their website at www.ppacri.org.

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Frank O'Donnell

Frank O’Donnell has been writing features and reviews about the local entertainment scene for 20 years. In addition to that, he’s a stand-up comic, comedy writer, actor, playwright, compliance officer, butterfly whisperer and president of the Keri Anne O’Donnell Memorial Fund. #KeepingPassionForPerformanceAlive.