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Listen: Broadway’s ‘Pretty Woman’ Star on Nostalgia, Reviews and Why the Musical Works Now

Andy Karl knows a thing or two about Broadway musicals based on movies after playing the UPS guy in “Legally Blonde,” the Italian Stallion himself in “Rocky,” and the jaded weatherman in “Groundhog Day” (in an Olivier-winning performance). So when it comes to his latest project — “Pretty Woman,” the musical adaptation of the famous Julia Roberts-Richard Gere comedy — he knows that being faithful to the original is just as important as bringing something new to the table.

“[The musical] is very faithful to the film, and I don’t think you can get around that,” Karl said on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “This particular musical needs all the elements. It needs the dress, it needs the necklace, it needs certain lines,” he continued, referring to the iconic scene from the film in which Roberts, dressed in a red opera gown, gets an expensive necklace as a gift from Gere. “Doing shows like ‘Groundhog Day’ and ‘Rocky,’ I know there are certain things that you need throughout the piece to remind people of how much they love it. You’re working on a part of the brain that’s nostalgic.”

The musical opened last month to very mixed reviews, but that hasn’t stopped audiences from turning out in droves. That’s just part of the reason Karl doesn’t place much trust in reviews anymore. “For ‘Groundhog Day’ … I had never read such glowing reviews before. Especially about myself! Five stars, all the way across, Olivier Award. But then we get to New York, reviews were great here, but we just couldn’t get audiences to come see it. It blew my mind. … Reviews, to me, have lessened in value.”

On “Stagecraft,” Karl also explained why he thinks the knight-in-shining-armor fairy tale of “Pretty Woman” works in today’s heightened awareness of gender parity issues: “She can save him right back.” Plus, he revealed why he loves sharing the stage with his wife, Orfeh (who co-stars in “Pretty Woman”), described his “Groundhog Day” tattoo, and let fans know how that knee is doing.

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every other Tuesday in July, August, and September, and then weekly beginning in October. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunesStitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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