Pop Goes The News – The first Broadway musical with songs by Canadian hitmakers Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance opened Thursday – and the reviews are mixed.
Pretty Woman: The Musical is based, of course, on the 1990 film starring Richard Gere as a rich businessman and Julia Roberts as a prostitute.
“It’s the same old icky story,” opined Joe Dziemianowicz in his two-star review in the New York Post. “Seriously: Why would anyone revisit such a funky fable, especially in the #MeToo age?”
He described the score by Adams and Vallance as “pleasant” and “all soft rock and smooth grooves” but complained that “earworms are in short supply.”
In the New York Stage Review, David Finkle said Adams and Vallance don’t “burst on the scene” with their first Broadway score. “They peek through,” he wrote.
“The songs, where off rhymes proliferate like mosquitoes in summer, do remain serviceable.”
David Cote of The Village Voice criticized Adams and Vallance for coming up with a score that only “slenderly … connects to characters and situations.” He called some of the 16 songs “uninspired, as telegraphed by their bromidic titles.”
Cote wrote: “I can’t emphasize how mediocre these airbrushed ditties are, cranked out by a pair of Canadians who spent decades simulating teen longing for three-minute bursts. It’s Velveeta Rock, and, crammed into a Broadway format, it doesn’t add up to a musical so much as a play in which characters periodically break into Bryan Adams’s back catalog. When people sing in a show, they’re supposed to get more interesting, not less.”
Referring to one song in the show, Cote said: “Febreze called; they want their jingle back.”
Chris Nashawaty at EW found the songs by Adams and Vallance “uninspired, a little cheesy and lifeless — try as they might to rev them up with Bon Jovi-esque guitar power chords.
“The lyrics can be downright lazy. For the record, any song that contains the line ‘For the first time I can see…’ should be banned from Broadway from this moment into perpetuity.”
At The New York Times, critic Ben Brantley said Pretty Woman: The Musical “lowers the already ground-scraping bar for literal-minded adaptations of film to stage.”
He added: “The score’s many, country-tinged power ballads bring to mind B-sides of Top 40 hits from the 1980s, the era in which Mr. Adams became a rock star.”
Bob Verini at Variety noted: “The country-tinged pop numbers consistently announce each singer’s subtext. Though the lyrics teem with cliche, the cast gives its all to sell them.”
At Time Out, Adam Feldman called Pretty Woman: The Musical “mostly just a dutiful replica of the movie, except when it stops to accommodate new songs, by period rocker Bryan Adams and his writing partner Jim Vallance, that raise the eternal question: Tell me, have you ever really, really, really ever bought a woman?”
He said that given the show’s subject matter, it might have been a good idea to hire a female songwriter – “or at least someone with experience in musical theater.”
Feldman opined: “Adams and Vallance’s music does its job, but has a Broadway show ever had lyrics so utterly, almost senselessly generic? … Not only do the songs fail to heighten key moments; they grind those moments into mush.”
And David Rooney, reviewing Pretty Woman: The Musical in The Hollywood Reporter, declared that the show’s songs “could easily pass for vintage FM-radio pop-rock singles.”
He added: “Most of the songs … are tunefully easy on the ear and skillful enough at exploring the characters’ feelings.”
Writing in Broadway News, Charles Isherwood allowed that the show “does have some moments of mildly transporting musical pleasure” but noted that the lyrics “feel like a thick thesaurus of banalities.”
He added: “Most of the score feels either bland and repetitive, or filler.”
Pretty Woman: The Musical is set to run at the Nederlander Theater in New York City until Feb. 6.