Pretty Woman

Olivia Valli stars in the musical production of “Pretty Woman,” now playing at Providence Performing Arts Center.

By KATHIE RALEIGH

Special to The Times

PROVIDENCE – There are a couple famous names among cast members for “Pretty Woman: The Musical,” which began its first national tour this week at the Providence Performing Arts Center.

Pascal for one, as in Adam Pascal, best known for his role in “Rent” on stage and in the 2005 film.

Valli is the other, the surname known to one generation from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and to many more with the success of the smash hit “Jersey Boys,” which told the group’s story.

This time, however, the Valli is a Jersey Girl: Olivia Valli, who refers to Frankie as “grandpa.”

“Pretty Woman: The Musical” is based on the 1990 film that famously starred Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward, a down-on-her-luck Hollywood hooker, and Richard Geer as Edward Lewis, the wealthy businessman who falls in unlikely love with this “pretty woman.”

Pascal played Edward on Broadway and reprises the role in the national tour. Valli is a newcomer described by producer Paula Wagner as “a major talent to watch. She is luminous to watch on stage and is going to be a real breakthrough star.”

Valli’s credentials go beyond good vocal genes. After earning a bachelor’s degree in musical theater at Montclair State University, she immediately went on the road with the second national tour of “Wicked” in the ensemble and as the understudy for lead character Elphaba. She was at PPAC when that tour stopped here.

Then she joined the Off-Broadway company of “Jersey Boys,” appearing as Mary Delgado, her real-life grandmother.

During an interview by telephone, Valli said she grew up singing, but that family gatherings never were songfests.

“We talked about pasta sauce and other Italian things,” she claims, laughing.

She was a junior in high school before the idea of becoming a professional singer took hold. Cast in the musical “Gypsy,” her rendition of “Rose’s Turn” earned a standing ovation, and she was thrilled.

“The audience was so engaged,” she remembers, and making that actor-to-audience connection had her hooked.

Without formal vocal training, she found college “intimidating. Others had been training their entire lives,” she says. Landing the role in “Wicked” was a confidence boost.

As for grandpa’s contribution, Olivia says, “We talk quite often, about vocal health and on-the-road tips. I’m very close to grandpa, but I said I want to do this myself. And he said he’d just be my number-one fan.”

Now in rehearsals at PPAC, Valli says playing Vivian “is the dream come true that I never dreamed of.” She had auditioned for the supporting role of Kit De Luca, Vivian’s roommate, but when she was called back, it was for the role of Vivian.

“I love the movie,” she says, “but it feels like the play is a more cohesive story. Some characters are more fleshed out (as are) the real nuances of this piece.”

She says the score, by Grammy winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, is “definitely rock and pop,” and includes Roy Orbison’s hit “Oh, Pretty Woman.” Her favorite new song is “Anywhere But Here.”

“It’s the first song Vivian sings. It starts ballad-y and then kicks off. It’s catchy,” she says.

She also enjoys wearing Vivian’s glamorous costumes. “You’ll see the red dress, the blue and white dress, the polka dots, and some new costumes.”

The musical, however, is more than a fashion statement.

“People need to see this show because it reminds people of seeing the beauty of a person on the inside, about falling in love with a person’s essence, not status – and because it’s fun.”

“Pretty Woman” launches its North American Tour from the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., with performances Oct. 9-16. Ticket prices are $94-$20 and available at the box office in the theater, online at ppacri.org and by phone at (401) 421-ARTS (2787).

Patrons must either show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of a performance or proof of a negative antigen (rapid) test within six hours of performance time. All patrons, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks. For details, visit ppacri.org/healthandsafety.

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