WITH classic performances from Hollywood royalty Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, blockbuster Pretty Woman was one of the biggest films of the 90s.

The ‘rags to riches’ romance of the diamond-in-the-rough escort who is scooped up by a loaded businessman (cash rich but emotionally poor) is a latter day fairytale. Prince Charming rescues – and is in turn rescued by – a damsel in distress... but with love as a financial transaction.

It nods back to the Brothers Grimm and George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, but against a morally dubious, yet oddly publicly acceptable, backdrop of prostitution.

Its less than family-friendly glamorisation of the sex industry did not hold it back, though. On its release, it was the fourth highest earning movie of all time and it remains a staple of romantic comedy.

How, then does it fare as a stage show?

Musical theatre is fueled by a steady stream of adapted box office smashes – and not all of them are great. This however, is a triumph – far exceeding my, admittedly modest, expectations.

It is slick and elegant, heartfelt and honest, terribly funny – and frequently hilarious. And it boasts a fabulous cast.

thisisoxfordshire: Pretty Woman at the New Theatre Oxford

One-time Love Island winner Amber Davies dazzles in the lead role as Vivian Ward. Glamorous, cheeky and punchy, she sparkles as our risqué heroine alongside Oliver Savile as her client – the handsome, privileged and horribly entitled Edward.

Both are brilliant. Davies is grittier and more believable (in the nicest possible way) as a Rodeo Drive hooker than the too-precious Julia Roberts was, while Savile's Edward is just as contemptible as Gere's eligible billionaire, but less smug.

Neither are just pretty faces, either, packing fabulous voices.

thisisoxfordshire: Pretty Woman at the New Theatre Oxford

Another absolute star was Curtis Patrick as a multitasking dramatic dynamo – one moment a wisecracking down-at-heel Rodeo Drive hustler... and the next as a haughty hotel manager. Seeing the snobbish boss of the Beverly Wilshire thaw as he warmed to Vivian's honest charm was a delight – as were his wonderful dance moves.

Likewise, the lightfooted Charlie Chaplin-esque Noah Harrison, who kept the laughs coming as Giulio the upbeat hotel bellboy.

Annell Odartey was perfect as sassy streetwalker and confidante Kit De Luca, raising the roof with her scorching soulful voice.

At times the show is way better than it needed to be. A trip to see La Traviata features a sky-scraping operatic performance so good that I initially assumed the singers were lip-syncing. They were not.

thisisoxfordshire: Pretty Woman at the New Theatre Oxford

It is gorgeously choreographed by Jerry Mitchell and the scenery is quite beautiful – particularly the ornate arched balcony of the hotel penthouse where much of the... cough!... 'action' takes place.

All in all, it was a tremendous night out. Everyone knows the ending, and its ambiguous message, but the journey is light hearted and fun, propelled by outstanding performances. Pretty brilliant.

  • Pretty Woman the Musical runs until tonight Saturday, December 9. It then continues its tour around the country, including a run at the Milton Keynes Theatre from March 19-30, 2024Tickets from atgtickets.com