×

‘Pretty Woman’ Broadway Cast Recalls Performing for Julia Roberts

Samantha Barks didn’t watch Julia Roberts and Richard Gere’s iconic “Pretty Woman” in preparation for her starring role in the new Broadway musical adaptation of the 1990 film.

“It’s so hard to watch it because it’s such a beautiful, iconic performance,” Barks, who plays Vivian Ward, the hooker with a heart of gold, told Variety on Thursday at the musical’s opening night. “You can’t do your own thing for a minute and breathe. We’re lucky we have so many songs to sing, which adds new layers to the character.”

Though Roberts didn’t attend opening night at the Nederlander Theatre, she came to a performance while the show was running previews. The part of Vivian Ward launched Roberts into superstardom, so naturally, Barks said it was “petrifying” performing for her.

“Luckily, I didn’t know she was in the audience,” Barks recalled. “They made a speech [after the performance] like, ‘Oh, Julia Roberts is in the audience.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean Julia Roberts is in the audience?!’ I’m so grateful they kept it a secret from me.”

The cast all agreed Roberts couldn’t have been more gracious when she came backstage after the show.

Popular on Variety

“She just hugged me for a minute and we didn’t let go,” Barks said. “She was so supportive and excited by what we were doing. I couldn’t ask for more. It was a dream.”

Orfeh portrays Vivian’s sassy roommate Kit De Luca, who shows Vivian the tricks of the trade. Roberts told Orfeh that seeing the show made her miss Laura San Giacomo, the actress who plays Kit in the movie.

“She really had a connection to everyone. It wasn’t just like, ‘Hey, you were great,'” Orfeh said. “She really took the time to give each of us Julia Roberts face time. We all died.”

As the wealthy and charming businessman Edward Lewis, Andy Karl said Roberts told him he had the hardest part in the show. 

“She knows my journey in the show is a tough one,” Karl said. “Apparently Richard Gere complained every day, just like, ‘I’m a walking suit.'”

Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, whose many Broadway credits include “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” “Kinky Boots,” “Hairspray,” and “Catch Me If You Can,” said he knew audiences would have higher expectations for the musical version of “Pretty Woman,” given its nearly 30-year legacy.

One line he knew had to be in the show? When Vivian returns to a store on Rodeo Drive with an arm full of shopping bags and tells the saleswomen who wouldn’t let her shop there the day before, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.

“That whole idea of a girl being dissed and then being able to go back and conquer them,” Mitchell said. “What I looked for was the close-up afterwards. How do we turn that into a musical number? That’s really what made it special.”

Jerry Mitchell, Paula Wagner'Pretty Woman: The Musical' opening night, New York, USA - 16 Aug 2018
CREDIT: Andrew H Walker/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

The scene Orfeh fought to keep in the show was a little more colorful.

“I thought it was really important that ‘Cinder-f—ing-ella’ was there and not watered down or deleted. There was a time that wasn’t going to be in the musical,” she revealed, referring to a scene where Vivian asks Kit when a rags-to-riches story actually works out.

Eventually, she got the creative team on board.

“You don’t want to curse, but I said, let me try it. And it worked,” Orfeh said. “They were like, ‘Alright fine, we’re putting it in.'”

There was at least one iconic moment that they intentionally chose to leave out. Though the stage adaptation is, of course, a musical, the creative team behind the show didn’t include Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” the track that the movie was named after.

“I wanted an original score. [The movie] score wasn’t written for anyone to sing,” Mitchell said. “It wasn’t written for a character to sing. It was a mood-setting song. Read the lyrics — you’re not really sure who would say that today, and especially to a woman, today.”

More Scene

  • 'Little America' Team on Creating Immigration

    'Little America' Team on Creating the Immigration Anthology Series for Apple TV Plus

    Respect and authenticity were the key words at the screening of the new Apple TV Plus series “Little America” on Thursday in Los Angeles. Produced by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon and inspired by true stories featured in Epic Magazine, “Little America” is an anthology series focused on immigration. For executive producer Sian Heder, [...]

  • 2018 Sundance Film Festival - Egyptian

    Sundance 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Heading to Park City? From intimate dinners and cocktail parties to late night bashes (that end just in time to head to brunch), there’s plenty to keep this year’s film festival attendees out of the cold between screenings. Here is Variety’s ultimate party guide for Sundance 2020:  Thursday, Jan. 23 “Summertime” Premiere Party Lyft Lounge, 8-11 [...]

  • BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 21:

    Jenna Andrews Hosts Zhavia Ward, Lennon Stella at Jed Foundation Fundraiser

    Jenna Andrews, the Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer and executive, hosted a pre-Grammy event in partnership with The Jed Foundation at Alice and Olivia in West Hollywood on Tuesday.  The non-profit Jed is dedicated to protecting emotional health and preventing suicide. The foundation has partnered with high schools and colleges in order to “strengthen mental health, [...]

  • Coldplay - Chris Martin

    Grammys 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Let the music play, indeed. The Grammys are just days away and dozens of parties are happening every night this week leading up to the big day, Sunday, Jan. 26. And the partying continues with several bashes following the ceremony. (All events listed are by invitation only unless marked otherwise; this list is being updated [...]

  • Jared Harris arrives at the 26th

    No, Jared Harris is Not Playing Doctor Octopus in Marvel's 'Morbius'

    The first-ever trailer for Marvel and Sony’s next Spider-man spinoff “Morbius” left comic book fans reeling with theories. While the plight of the main character, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) – a scientist dying of a rare blood disease who accidentally turns himself into a vampire – seemed ripped right out of the comics, the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content