Jerry Mitchell, director for the recent Broadway run of “Pretty Woman: The Musical,” knew immediately that songwriting duo Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance (“Summer of ’69”) matched his production. “Bryan and Jim have this uncanny ability to write an incredible hook, and a lot of those hooks…sound like they belong in this era.” But it wasn’t easy for the acclaimed pair as they stepped into the role of “Music and Lyrics.” To keep it simple (for now), Vallance would say: “We were learning as we were going along.”
We invite you into literally every step of the “Pretty Woman” musical and subsequent cast recording release, starting from Adams’ initial interest in the property (he himself inquired about a musical version of the film back in 2008), to the out-of-town process and frequent rewrites, to Broadway, and eventually to the album recording itself. On the latter, Vallance was said to review “every single take, every single note, searching for perfection in every performance.” With interviews extending beyond the songwriters, you’re treated to an extraordinarily rich look at this process.
In the end, perhaps Orfeh (the show’s Kit De Luca) put it best in regard to the album, which is now available: “We’ve made a pop CD. We have made a bonafide pop CD that happens to be based on a musical.”
Now following the Broadway run, see the dates for “Pretty Woman: The Musical” at their website.
Interviews: Jerry Mitchell (Director), Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance (Music/Lyrics), Andy Karl (Actor), Orfeh (Actor), Craig Rosen (Atlantic Records Executive Vice President, A&R Operations), Will Van Dyke (Orchestrator).
Jesse Cannon: Hi. My name is Jesse Cannon, and I’ve devoted my life to figuring out what goes into making great albums. I’ve produced over a thousand records, written two books, and recorded hundreds of podcasts pursuing the hidden secrets of how great music gets to the world’s ears. Now, I’m proud to present Inside the Album, where we get to go deeper on how your favorite artists have made the amazing albums in their catalog. We will hear first-hand from the musicians and the team behind them that helped craft these records, while getting to know the little secrets that go into making great music.
On this episode, we’re going to talk about the original cast recording of the hit Broadway play, “Pretty Woman.”
Garry Marshall’s 1990 film, “Pretty Woman,” remains one of the highest grossing and most enduring romantic comedies of all time. So it only seemed right to take this story to Broadway. While it’s a movie known for its iconic triple platinum soundtrack, featuring countless hit songs like Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love,” something interesting happened. When it came time for Broadway director Jerry Mitchell to commission the music for his version of this modern-day Cinderella story, he scrapped that original soundtrack. Instead, he decided to enlist the powerhouse song writing team of Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. A duo most famously known for classics like “Summer of ’69,” and “Everything I Do, I Do it for You.”
It was then up to them, along with a team of collaborators, to combine the spirit of the film with the energy of the live stage and to handle the joys and limitations that come along with this type of adaptation. I’m going to let Bryan and Jim start us off by telling us how they met since you could really hear their chemistry as collaborators here.
Bryan Adams: OK, well, we’re from Canada and we’re from Vancouver, Canada. I was a musician about 17, 18 when I met Jim in a music store.
Jim Vallance: Yeah I was in a music store one day with a friend of mine, Ellie Monroe, and Bryan was in the store as well. I can’t remember why I went. I think-
Bryan Adams: I was looking for Ellie.
Jim Vallance: I was returning a rental, I think, and Ellie introduced Bryan and I. We hadn’t met previously, and Vancouver is a small town and the music community’s quite small. I knew who Bryan was. He knew who I was. We’d been in separate bands in the same scene, and we had a quick chat and I had just quit my band. I think you had just quit yours, and we said let’s get together. Literally about two or three days later, Bryan came over and we wrote a song the first day. Forty years later, still at it.
Bryan Adams: It was a shit song, but it was still a song. Actually it wasn’t a shit song. It was a pretty good song actually.
Jim Vallance: What was the first song we wrote together?
Bryan Adams: “Don’t Turn Me Away.”
Jim Vallance: “Don’t Turn Me Away,” yeah.
Jesse Cannon: I then asked Bryan how he came to work on this musical.
Bryan Adams: The idea stems from a friend of mine who was working in the west end. Her name is Victoria Hines. She’s a dancer on the west end in London. We were talking one day and she said: “Ugh, I wish someone would make that film into a musical. It would be such a good musical.” I thought that’s a really good idea, so I called my agent in Los Angeles and I said, “Do you know who owns this?” He said, “Yeah. It’s Disney. Disney owns it, so I’ll connect you.” They connected me with them. This is going back to 2008. They just said, “No, we’re not making that.” Four times a year someone comes in and asks and they didn’t give a reason. I have my own thoughts about that. At this point I was just resigned to the fact that they weren’t going to do it. What I did was just forgot about the idea completely.
Then, about seven years later, a friend of mine called Rob Roth, who was the director of “Beauty and the Beast” here in New York. Came to my show and he says, “You should definitely do a Broadway musical sometime. It would be so great.” I said, “I tried to do that.” He goes, “Which one did you try?” I said, “Pretty Woman.” He goes, “They’re making that right now.” I said, “Really?” He goes, “Yeah. I’ll connect you to the guy.” And he connected me to the same guy I spoke to in 2008. They said, oh yeah. We’ll connect you with the producer and then the producer connected me to the director and then I met the director. We had a chat. At that point, it seemed like, it could be feasible to do. That’s when I called my friend Jim Vallance and I said, “What do you think, Jim? Do you want to do this with me?” And he said yeah.
Jesse Cannon: The director he is speaking of is, of course, Jerry Mitchell, and I’m going to let him talk about his side of how this came to be.
Jerry Mitchell: This is one of my favorite movies. I fell in love with the story when I saw it in the early ’80s. I was dancing at the time in a musical called “The Will Rogers Follies” on Broadway. Seeing a lot of movies. I actually tried to get the rights to the movie. I was a dancer and nobody cared what I thought. But I just fell in love with the love story. When I first saw it, to me it was the perfect Cinderella story. You meet this girl, she’s obviously in the ashes. She’s in a terrible place. She meets Prince Charming and then she falls in love and they end up happily ever after.
As I grew up and became a director and choreographer, what I realized was it was a real opportunity for the leading character to define herself as a woman and not be defined by the man. That’s what I really wanted to try and attempt with the musical. When I sat down with Bryan and Jim to write the score, because it’s a musical, right? First of all, I had to convince Garry Marshall and Paula Wagner that the way to bring a movie to the stage is by getting an original score behind it. I had, obviously I worked on “Hairspray.” I directed “Legally Blonde,” “Kinky Boots.” So, I’ve had some experience taking film stories and adapting them for the stage. My thing that I love most, the reason I go to a musical is to hear the music. To hear the score.
So, when Bryan said he was interested, I thought, “oh yeah.” I want to meet him, because when I think of Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, I think of love songs. This was a romantic story and it needed love songs. It needed love songs from the character’s point of view. I was hoping that they’d be able to deliver that and I think they did quite beautifully. But, that was the number 1 reason I thought they’d be brilliant. I thought that the character of Vivian, there are moments in the film where she says a line that is often the inspiration for a song. She says right away in the film, I think on the street in the original film, Garry’s film, she says, “Don’t you ever want to get out of here?”
Which, to me, was a light bulb idea for a song for that character about wanting to get out. Get off the streets. Get out of the street business. That became the “I want” song for her. But, the problem with the character is she doesn’t know what she wants. She just knows she doesn’t want to be here. As soon as we touched on that, with Bryan and Jim, they came back with that great song “Anywhere But Here,” which I think definitely is a great launching song for any character in a musical.
Jesse Cannon: And this is Bryan and Jim talking about how they initially shaped the show with Jerry.
Jim Vallance: In terms of input, our very first meeting, our very first writing session in January, we had our audition meeting in the early part of 2016. Shortly after that, I think it was January 2016, if I’ve got the date right, we all went to Chicago. Jerry was there working on Kinky Boots, so-
Bryan Adams: We had Garry Marshall there with us.
Jim Vallance: Myself, Bryan, JF the book writer and Garry Marshall collaborated with JF.
Bryan Adams: I want you guys to write a song like this.
Jim Vallance: So, we would sit around a boardroom table at the hotel in Chicago, because it was too cold to go outside. It was brutal. So cold. We would have a conversation, just a group conversation about a song. Bryan and I would go back to one of our rooms. We had a little studio set up and we’d write a verse and a chorus just as an example. Then we’d all get back together in the boardroom, play them what we had. Everyone would comment on it, and Bryan and I would go back to the room, do some more writing, and we did a whole week of that. It was pretty much 10 in the morning until midnight for about seven days. It was a very productive, very creative time. We went through the musical chronologically, as I recall. We started with the opening number, which we had discussed with Jerry over pizza in London. Then we moved on to the next song and each song began with a conversation with Jerry. We’d ask him, OK, walk us through this scene as you envision it. This is before even a single note or a lyric had been written and we would record the conversations and go back and listen to them later.
There were all kinds of nuggets and really useful instructions from Jerry in every case. The conversation would include, “Do you want a fast song? Do you want a slow song?” We were instructed a couple of times to write a country song. Another one was sort of a jazz song.
Bryan Adams: Hawaiian song.
Jim Vallance: Full on rock songs. And there’s one song, sadly, that is no longer in the musical that we both had a lot of fun writing called “Money Makes the Man.” It is kind of an old musical song, similar to “When I’m 64” by the Beatles. It was that kind of “dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum.” It was a real fun song. So there’s six or eight songs, really good songs, that are no longer in. They would be in for a month or so and then Jerry would say-
Bryan Adams: Yeah, I’ll put them in the next musical.
Jesse Cannon: One of the hardest parts of doing a musical compared to say an opera or an album, is you have to decide when is a song going to happen versus when is it going to be dialogue? I asked Jerry if he had an insight for Jim and Bryan on that.
Jerry Mitchell: No, I think I encouraged them to write and I think JF did also. Any time that they thought something could be a song, write it. They wrote a song called “Stay,” I think, they titled it. It was when he closes the door in the scene and asks her to stay. Not because he’s paying her. Stay because she wants to stay and she can’t. The song was really great. It was a great song, but the problem in shaping a musical was we already had “Long Way Home,” which was a ballad, and “Stay” was a ballad. And they’re right at the end and I wanted “Long Way Home” because I thought, “Long Way Home,” they did something. The trick also is movies can cut. You can be in a room, and then you can cut and you can be on the street, and you can cut and you can be at the airport. On stage, that’s harder to do.
Music can help with those transitions. They had built this song, “Long Way Home,” that took me from the penthouse to limbo as they’re both going back to their own worlds. He’s going to the airport to fly to New York. She’s going to her apartment to live on Hollywood Boulevard. I knew I could stage that and make it really touching, so I didn’t want to play around with that and also I loved the song. It was one of the first songs they wrote and Garry loved it. It was the right story beat. Just before that, we hear her sing this amazing number called “I Can’t Go Back,” where she states that her life — being exposed to what she’s been exposed to — she can’t go back and live the life she lived. She doesn’t need anyone to do that for her. She has to decide that on her own and she makes that decision long before she decides to rescue him, right?
It’s a wonderful thing for her as a woman to feel empowered. That she’s made a decision that she’s not going to rely on anyone but herself to move on, to get out of the situation she’s in. They wrote that incredible song “I Can’t Go Back,” which sort of does just that. It tells you that this character means business. She is not messing around. That’s what you want.
Jesse Cannon: And here’s Bryan talking a little bit more about the development process.
Bryan Adams: Music kind of moves that film along. In fact, I think the title might have actually come from the Roy Orbison song, which doesn’t feature in the musical because it’s a totally original score. I think the music in the film does move the story, and doesn’t move it in a narrative way, but it moves it just because it’s fun and it gives it an uplifting feel. Definitely the sense that we had going into this was yes, we wanted to make it a very uplifting and romantic and fun musical.
The first thing that happened was we went out on our own on spec and wrote a couple of songs that we felt would be a good way of auditioning ourselves for the part. We knew that they had looked at other people. So, we worked on these songs and then we met them. We met the director Jerry and Paula and JF, the writer. Produced our songs for them and that was the beginning of a very interesting creative journey for three years, which would basically stem back to the director every time. Jerry Mitchell had a very clear vision of what he’d want and every time we were getting to the point where okay, now it’s time for the next song, we would sit down and say, “Okay, what do you think?” We’d have a collective meeting of creatives and then we talk about what the next song would be and we’d just go back and crack on.
Sometimes we would go out on a limb and then try something for a scene, but usually it was better to always be to the director first because he knew what scenes he wanted to feature in the musical.
Jesse Cannon: And here’s Jerry on what he thought was so appealing about working with Bryan and Jim.
Jerry Mitchell: There’s no question that Bryan and Jim’s sound I thought matched the material. I wanted to keep it in the period without saying it was in the period. I wanted the music to define the period. Bryan and Jim have this uncanny ability to write an incredible hook. And a lot of those hooks that they write sound like they belong in this era. It doesn’t mean that they can’t write something that sounds popular today because they do that too. That’s actually part of what drew me to Bryan and Jim was some of the stuff Bryan’s most recently written and that I’ve fallen in love with, but I went to his concert early on in the process when he agreed to work together. I went to one of Bryan’s concerts at the Beacon, and I walked in and I don’t know what I thought I was going to see, but I was actually in heaven when I left. No pun intended. I saw all of these couples, holding each other and singing their songs. Their love songs in particular. I thought, “That’s what we need for ‘Pretty Woman’.” We need those love songs and we need it to be as exciting to the woman as it is to the man.”
Pretty Woman: The Musical — “On a Night Like Tonight”
Jesse Cannon: Since Bryan and Jim are obviously veterans of making great songs, I was curious what they did to try to prepare themselves for this new venture of theirs.
Jim Vallance: I did some research. I went and saw a bunch of shows. “Evan Hansen,” “Waitress,” “Hello Dolly.” I went and saw a bunch of shows because we were new to this. It was a steep learning curve and I wanted to make sure we went in at least knowing the landscape. The one thing I came away with from every show was, I mean, great song. Evan Hansen, the lyrics are brilliant. I saw “Evan Hansen” twice. It took me two visits for some of the choruses to stay with me. I wanted to make sure that our choruses were memorable, like pop songs are memorable. We know how to do that, but you then run up against the requirement to serve the story. So, then you run into some lyrical things that hobble you a little bit. In a way to work around some restrictions, but still trying to deliver what we hoped were memorable melodies and hook choruses.
Bryan Adams: I remember one of the restrictions was, OK, you can’t mention hooker, prostitute, anything to do with what she does. You can’t mention love and you can’t mention dreams. We couldn’t mention any of those things in the first act-
Jim Vallance: But further to that, Jerry said, “Write me a love song, but I don’t want the word love in it.”
Bryan Adams: Interesting to have that challenge. Of course, it all changed. Eventually dreams and love ended up becoming a major factor all over the place, but the original directive was to keep that out. And dreams, dreams, don’t mention dreams.
They wanted to wait to talk about that until the second act. She didn’t want to talk about her dreams initially until the second act.
Also, because there’s a song in the second act called, “Never Give Up on Your Dreams.” We were told that’s going to be the first time we’re going to talk about dreams because that’s such a critical song in the set. “Everyone’s got a dream. What’s your dream?” Let’s not talk about it until we get to that point in the show.
Jim Vallance: Just to touch on the direction again, there’s a film, a couple of films. One is called “Russian Ark.” The other’s called “Birdman,” which were shot with one camera in one take. Sometimes I see Jerry’s onstage direction in that way. Where, in this one song that starts in a restaurant and then morphs through into a dance scene and the scenery lifts up and goes away. New scenery comes in. It’s almost like a film. Crossfade. It’s really quite remarkable,
Bryan Adams: One thing you have to remember about “Pretty Woman,” the film, was a lot of it was shot in close up. To take that visual and to try and bring it to the stage was a huge challenge because it’s really about two people. Just the raising of an eyebrow or the turn of the head would say so much on camera, but you have to try and take those emotions and make songs that do the same thing.
It was a very interesting thing to do from a visual and song thing. So, how are we going to make that little emotion that she shows in that film, how are we going to make that work in a song and bring it to the stage? That was the challenge. Every song. Every single song does that, you know, just from the opening number where it’s a guy on the street going: “Welcome to Hollywood. What’s your dream? Everybody’s got a dream.” How do you take that and take that little idea at the beginning of the film, which is literally a five second thing, and make it the opening number for an entire musical?
Jesse Cannon: I then asked Bryan and Jim to talk to me a little bit about how they actually write songs.
Jim Vallance: We have interchanging rules. We both write music, we both write lyrics. Sometimes I’ll write a verse and Bryan will come up with the chorus. Sometimes I’ll have a chorus and he’ll come up with a verse. It’s a lot of just independent work and then stitch it together. Sometimes we start from scratch in the same room.
Bryan Adams: So many times it would just be sort of busk an idea and Jim would be playing something on the keyboard and I go, “What did you just play there? Play it again.” And then I’d pick up and do something on the microphone and then go back to our notes and see maybe there’s a song title in there or sometimes Jim would have a completed song. It just needed some lyric adjustments, or I’d have a verse, he’d have a chorus. So many different ways it would happen. There’s isn’t one way.
Jim Vallance: Sometimes we weren’t even on the same continent. Bryan would email me just an idea he’d recorded in a hotel room in Germany on his iPhone, and I would have something that I had cobbled together wherever I was and we’d get the beginnings of a song that way.
Bryan Adams: My thought about this was I wanted it to be just as good of the songs as we could. I wasn’t thinking of a particular time period or whether it’s camp or not. I was thinking about it just had to be good songs and hopefully memorable songs that people could hum when they walked out. That was the thing. Let’s try and write the best song we can for this particular thing. Usually what would happen is a song would be presented and then it would be…We got down to the point where it would be let’s just do a verse and a chorus, because if they [didn’t] like the verse and the chorus, we don’t have to write the whole song. So that’s what we would do. We’d write a verse and a chorus. That would sort of get us to point A. We brought that in and they’d go, “Demo disclaimer guys. This is just a start.” Usually Jerry would have something to say about that. We would take it from there.
One of my favorite moments was…for the longest time during the show, at the beginning, Jerry was sure that this opening number was going to bookend and close at the end of the show. I kept thinking, okay, we don’t have to write a closing number. Then Jim calls me up and he goes, “I got good news and I’ve got bad news.” I said, “What’s that?” He goes, “Good news is everything seems to be going great, da, da, da, da, da. Bad news, we have to write a closing number.” I was like, “Ah, no. What?” After I hung up the phone, I literally picked up my guitar and the first thing I wrote was the chorus idea for the closing number, which is “Together Forever.”
Real, real rough sketch and I sent it right to Jim and he went, “Great. Good. We’ll fix it when you get here. We’ll get it when you get here.” That’s what worked. Being so bummed out by the fact that we had to write a closing number suddenly, I was just bar sit down and go right now. I’m going to do it right now. I want to get this off my table right now. Sometimes that’s what it takes.
Pretty Woman: The Musical — “You and I”
Jesse Cannon: One of the most crucial parts in the creative process of making a musical is the out-of-town period where they perform away from Broadway and start to refine the show after they think they got it and start to watch an audience’s reaction. I turned to Bryan and Jim to talk about the new experience they had doing this process.
Bryan Adams: There was changes, and then there was changes, and then there was changes. It never stopped. There was a title wave of changes all the time. We arose to the occasion every time.
Jim Vallance: And the changes would go into the show literally that day or the next day, so we would go to the show that night.
Bryan Adams: No matter how incremental they were, every night there would be a change. To the point where it was like, hang on a minute, we might have been better back here. And so sometimes they were not only taking the song to tell the story, but it was also a choreography thing, and it was an acting thing, so the song sometimes became secondary to what was happening. And that would be annoying because hang on, this song is being dissected.
Jim Vallance: Yeah, the nature of trial and error includes error. There were some nights I would go to see the show and I’d just be horrified, but again, to Jerry’s credit, he knew too, that it wasn’t working and it would either go back to the way it was or we’d do more development and we’d move it forward. It was a process of two steps forward, one step back, but Chicago got us to a place. But it was a process Bryan and I were not accustomed to, at a pace we weren’t accustomed to. It was difficult. It was a challenge.
Bryan Adams: I can say I think pretty unequivocally that Jim and I were thought of just as the songwriters and there wasn’t any hierarchy of just because you were there before you’re going to get a pass here. You have to write good songs and you have to make sure that your lyric and your melody is going to serve the story. I personally didn’t feel that. Did you Jimmy?
Jim Vallance: When we’re writing songs for one of your albums or for another artist, we have complete freedom to write about whatever we want, say whatever we want. There’s no one saying, “That verse doesn’t work. Rewrite it.” We’re our own masters. In this case, we’re serving the story and Jerry is the guy that makes sure we are. He stays on top of that. We were serving the story and serving the director. We didn’t have complete freedom, but I think there’s a lot of creativity can come from restrictions and parameters.
Bryan Adams: There were sometimes where our meetings were 20 people in the room. Producers, choreographers. Never the cast. It was always the people behind the scenes and Jerry has a couple of people who work with him, so sometimes presenting a song was a daunting experience where you’d have to sit in the room with everybody, going “hmm.”
Jesse Cannon: One of the assumptions about watching an audience’s reaction is that you’re catering to their every whim. But Jerry explains that’s not actually the case.
Jerry Mitchell: I think that one of the challenges for all of us and for me, and for Bryan, and Jim, and JF, was the out-of-town experience. We’re in Chicago and to be honest with you, the show got a standing ovation from the very first performance in Chicago, straight through to every performance we’ve done in New York City. So Bryan and Jim, as first time writers, I think seeing that audience’s response in Chicago was a false positive for them, because when you see an audience react like that at the end of a show, you think it’s perfect. It’s done. What more can we do?
It takes a lot of experience on musicals to realize that doesn’t always garner success when an audience stands up. It means they’re having a good time, but that’s not what you look for. You look for when aren’t they having a good time? When are they coughing? When are they twitching in their seat? When are they not paying attention? When are they not listening? That’s what I’ve learned. I’ve always learned that and why, one of the reasons I always go to Chicago or go anywhere out of town, is because you get that time with a real audience and the audience will guide you.
They will tell you when they’re happy. They’ll tell you when they’re unhappy. They’ll tell you when they like it and when they don’t like it and if you can really tune into them, not just your friends, not just the people who are there to support you, the actual people that have paid the real price to come see the show and watch them. You can learn a lot and make your show better.
Jesse Cannon: Now Jerry’s going to talk a little bit about what those changes actually look like.
Jerry Mitchell: The opening of the second act, you know, the polo match, went through several, several different versions. One of the things you’re doing when you’re adapting a film is you’re looking for ways to make it work on stage and sometimes that means removing yourself from the film and going in another direction. This was one of the places Jerry suggested we do a luau in Beverly Hills or in a very ritzy part of California where money’s being raised for the senator and Edward is throwing the party. We tried a luau and they wrote another beautiful song for me, “Love grows, la, da, da, da, da. It’s the greatest thing to love and be loved in return.” A beautiful song. I asked them to write it. They wrote it. It’s still a beautiful song. We didn’t keep the scene. We didn’t keep the number. We didn’t keep it.
Every time I asked them to write something, Bryan and Jim wrote something. I felt terrible every time it was cut or changed or we went in a different direction, but that is the job of writing a musical. Nothing is sacred. It all serves the story and if you don’t approach it that … And if you can’t kill your own babies, you really shouldn’t be in the business, because Cindy wrote nine songs that were eliminated from Kinky Boots, you know, and replaced.
These guys have wrote at least nine. Larry and Nell for me wrote at least a half a dozen or more for “Legally Blonde” that were replaced or cut or changed. I remember, I was working on a revival of “Ballroom” with the Bergmans, Allen and Marilyn Bergman. I asked them to rewrite a song and I felt very bad about it. I was very young. Marilyn said to me, she said: “Jerry, don’t ever feel bad about asking us to rewrite. Our job isn’t to write, our job is to keep writing. That’s our job. Keep writing until it’s perfect.” I thought wow. That’s coming from someone who’s much more experienced in exposure than I’ve ever had. I’ll never forget that when she told me that.
Jesse Cannon: Here’s Bryan and Jim talking about the revision process throughout the show.
Bryan Adams: Some songs would be well received. One particular case, the song, “Long Way Home,” don’t think there were any changes to that song whatsoever. In other cases, we were writing the same song 10 times. Not necessarily because the song was bad. It was just that the storyline would continually change and what do you want to say here? Like how do we open up Act 2 for example? That was the most difficult spot. They didn’t know what would be the best thing to say at that particular point. There was all kinds of ideas tossed around. Is it this? Is it that? At what point of the story are we and what’s going to move us to the next scene in the most humorous, uplifting, opening of Act 2 that we can possibly write?
We wrote all kinds of things and without getting into the particulars of it, what’s there now was something we wrote probably two or three versions before they ended up going back to that. There wasn’t really a moment that we felt that’s “locked,” because we don’t know. Is it going to change? Is the story going to change? What’s going to happen tomorrow? It was changing daily. If it wasn’t our lyrics and songs, it was the costumes, the dialogue, the book, the hair, everything. The sets, everything. Everything was changing so much all the time. Nothing was a standalone.
Jim Vallance: The opening number it was one of our audition pieces, it stayed in the musical. It’s still there, but it stayed virtually unchanged for the better part of two years. Then one day Jerry came to us and said, “You know, I want to further develop the character of the Happy Man.” He’s called the Happy Man.
Bryan Adams: He’s the narrator of the musical.
Jim Vallance: He wasn’t the narrator initially.
Bryan Adams: He is now.
Jim Vallance: He’s sort of a narrator, but Jerry, the director, wanted to very much make him the narrator, which required a complete lyric rewrite. I actually pushed back on that in the beginning. I didn’t quite understand how that was going to work. It seemed to me to be too on the nose, because as writers of pop songs, we have the liberty and the freedom to use metaphors and even vague lyrics that sometimes they don’t mean anything in particular, but they sound good.
Bryan Adams: That’s the story of my life by the way.
Jim Vallance: This was not permitted at all. Every line, every word had to serve the story. The director was very honest about that.
Bryan Adams: He was good that way. It’s what I was saying earlier about whenever we came to the next section of what we were doing, let’s sit with Jerry because any time we did go off on our own, it always like, “That’s a nice song, but look, we need to do this.”
Jim Vallance: Jerry’s always very clear.
Bryan Adams: Yeah, he was.
Jim Vallance: Yeah. Very, very clear with his instructions. That lyric rewrite was a bit of a challenge, turning the Happy Man into a narrator. The lyrics were just a little bit too on the nose for me to start with. It didn’t take long for me to buy into it. Again, even when I pushed back, at the end of the day, Jerry was always right. I have to grant him that.
Bryan Adams: There were quite a few rabbit holes. All the rabbit holes were getting to the next thing. So, try this, try this, try this, try this. You know what? We need to do this. You are the writers. Go off and do this because I need to know if this is going to work. It’s a shame he’s not here to actually be here to defend himself because he would say the same thing, I’m sure.
Part of the thing about creating something from nothing like a musical, is experimentation. You have to be able to be free to literally try this side of the story and see if it works. Not just from a musical or lyrical standpoint. But from visual. Is this taking the next part of the story further, visually as well.
Pretty Woman: The Musical — “Anywhere But Here”
Jesse Cannon: While Bryan and Jim are obviously experts in writing pop and rock songs, there was a learning curve for them. Learning what goes into making a great musical.
Jim Vallance: We were learning as we were going along here. One thing we learned is that the second song in a musical is called the “I want” song. Traditionally, I think every musical ever written, maybe with a few exceptions, has an “I want” song. The director was very particular about that song being exactly perfect in serving the story in a perfect way. I think we wrote at least three completely different songs for that spot. First song maybe it was in for six months, and then do a couple of workshops, and then Jerry would have further thoughts about it. Some of the storyline might change. For the second one-
Bryan Adams: I actually loved the song we wrote for this. It’s called “Anywhere but Here.” I think we nailed it.
Jim Vallance: It’s a great song, but I actually quite liked the one before it as well.
Bryan Adams: I love the sentiment. “Anywhere but Here.” I don’t want to be here. I want to be anywhere but here. It says the right thing for what she needs to feel at that time.
Jim Vallance: Then again, the point being Jerry was right. He got us to that place, but we had to write three different songs to get there. As Bryan mentioned earlier, the opening number for Act 2 was a real challenge. A real challenge.
Bryan Adams: I want those months back.
Jim Vallance: In the film, the senator from Hawaii has a bit part. I think he’s literally 10 seconds at the polo match or-
Bryan Adams: If that.
Jim Vallance: Somewhere, I forget exactly where. He was, at least he expanded into a slightly larger role. That’s now changed again. But, about a year ago, the opening number for Act 2 was going to be a luau. A Hawaiian luau.
Bryan Adams: I love that song.
Jim Vallance: Which one?
Bryan Adams: The luau.
Jim Vallance: Yeah. Honestly, I think we wrote 10 different songs for the opening of act two.
Bryan Adams: It’s my new album. It’s an Hawaiian album.
Jim Vallance: We had like ukulele and Hawaiian steel guitar. The book at that time included references to the senator from Hawaii’s grandmother offering gin to the volcano god. We wrote a whole lyric about that. Try to find a rhyme for gin and volcano god. But we did. So the senator of Hawaii, we wrote three or four or five different songs based on that theme until it was decided the senator from Hawaii was no longer any part of the story. Then it went to the polo match.
Bryan Adams: Yeah, but there was a funny thing, I remember, for the longest time that we couldn’t, whenever we had a workshop, we couldn’t mention “Pretty Woman” anywhere. One of the songs we had, I mentioned cashews, Hawaiian cashews. They were saying we need a name to call this production, so for the longest time it was just Cashews. Go there. Go ahead. Try it.
Jesse Cannon: One of the most crucial parts of a musical is how the songs get turned into arrangements. Bryan and Jim are going to talk a little bit about that now.
Bryan Adams: Got to give huge credit to our musical director, Will Van Dyke, who has been extraordinary in putting together some arrangements for the song, which have lifted everything to a real Broadway level. We’re taking those arrangements in and of course we’re fine tuning things as we go along to suit the song. Some of the arrangements are quite long so we have to edit them.
Jim Vallance: Some of the ensemble vocal arrangements are just superb. They just lift the song. And he’s done great string arrangements.
Bryan Adams: Yeah. He’s a proper arranger. I would say to Jim sometimes, “How’s it going?” And he goes, “Yeah good. Some interesting dance things.” I get there and they would have arranged, for example on “A Night Like Tonight,” which is one of the songs that features in the production, one of my favorite, it’s the tango of the night. It is a fantastic arrangement.
Jim Vallance: And choreography.
Bryan Adams: Yeah, but that’s part of it. It was designed for dance. The song is a song and then there’s an arrangement done to suit the choreography. The arrangement that’s done for the choreography is so clever. It’s really enhanced the production of the song.
Jim Vallance: Yeah, so Jerry would do step, step, step, step, boom, boom. Step, step, step, step, step, boom, boom in the choreography and Will would go da, da, da, da, boom, boom. Da, da, da, da, boom, boom. And it goes on for about five minutes and it’s just brilliant.
Jesse Cannon: And here’s Will Van Dyke, the orchestrator for the show, talking about how he shaped the show with his arrangements.
Will Van Dyke: I think like a lot of it for me was at the end of Act 1, at the end of “You’re Beautiful,” was when Bryan and Jim wrote the song like again, I remember getting it. I was in Australia and I was like, “Oh.” When they originally had written the song it was like a verse and a chorus. We were like this isn’t done. This is just an idea. But, we knew listening to it, this is going to be a great Act 1 closer. Bryan and Jim, that song in particular, I was like oh, this is great and then they wrote a whole song and I knew immediately oh, this is what everybody’s going to do. But then the song needed to include the entire company, because it’s a musical, and so I essentially took their main theme and ran with it. At a certain point in the tune, it’s just all counter melodies that I made up.
Using their lyric and their basic idea, it turned into this sort of, not “Les Mis” thing, but that concept of layering ideas on top of each other so everybody sang their theme going into intermission. At one point, it was so, so big that it was confusing and then it got stripped away and then Jerry was like, “We need to have a moment for her, we need to have a moment for her.”
Trying to get Bryan and Jim to write that moment and understand what they needed to do was really hard, and it took a really long time to push them to get there. Then they were finally like, “Oh, we think we get it,” and wrote something that was great, but was for Bryan. His voice and Samantha Barks’ voice are very different things. Trying to translate that idea that they came up with into our show, into her voice and like 24 hours. I didn’t sleep much in Chicago. It was those kinds of things that were really trying.
Jesse Cannon: We’ve been talking a lot about musical changes, but now, let’s talk about what happens when the show actually hits the stage. Here’s Orfeh Karl, who plays Kit Deluca in the show, talking about how a leading man can really change a show.
Orfeh: Oh gosh, it’s changed a lot. I would say most glaringly, we have a different leading man than we had in the out-of-town performances and that man also happens to be my husband. Through a series of bizarre coincidences and events and things that you don’t really ever anticipate happening, we lost our previous leading man for reasons, personal reasons. Andy and I were sitting in a car coming from an event much like what we’re doing right now.
Jerry Mitchell called Andy and said, “Come do my show,” and Andy had about 20 days to learn the entire show before opening it on Broadway. And he had seen it in Chicago. He had seen a lot of the run throughs and workshops and invited dress rehearsals and things of that nature, and all of a sudden, he found himself being in the cast.
Jesse Cannon: And this is Andy Karl, who plays Edward Lewis, talking about how that went down for him.
Andy Karl: I did, however, have the unique experience of seeing the show out-of-town in Chicago and seeing workshops beforehand. I was able to see what works, what doesn’t work. Maybe what I could add to this role. I didn’t know at the time I was going to be cast, but at the same time, whenever I see a show now, as an actor I sort of see it as, “oh, I connect with that guy,” or what would I do differently in order to make that work. Because really, he’s kind of a dick. He’s a rich dick and so there’s no reason to really like this guy. He’s got daddy issues. I’m like who doesn’t? I really want to earn the end of the show where Vivian and Edward fall in love and what reason is there for it?
What reason is there for them to be together because really, our show especially, the musical takes what was great from the movie, but also enhances the fact that this woman finds herself in this world that she realizes she doesn’t need to succeed. She actually comes out stronger on the other side of her experience in those six days with Edward Lewis.
She realizes that she can be very independent. I think the music also speaks toward that with Bryan Adam’s song, “I Can’t Go Back,” which Vivian sings and it’s very powerful. You realize that she doesn’t need anybody. What’s the reason for her needing Edward at the end? It’s really all about opening your heart and falling in love. I wanted to make sure A) we had the chemistry in order to do that.
Jesse Cannon: And here’s Andy talking a little bit more about what he contributed to the show.
Andy Karl: There was a song “Freedom,” which I saw in the workshops and it eventually got cut in Chicago when I saw it. I was like, “I miss that song so much. Oh, well. What a sad day.” But then when I got hired, I was like, “Can we bring this song, ‘Freedom’ back into the show?” I sat down with Jim Vallance and I have a lot of balls telling him to change a lyric. Here’s this guy who’s got Grammys and nominations. He’s got all this kind of stuff. He’s been doing this forever.
I’m like, “Is there a way to introduce this song in the first verse as something where he’s discovering this feeling as opposed to talking directly about it?” That was my musical theater background. I knew I needed a little something to grab on to. He did it. He did it in one day. He turned around, gave it this new lyric that works perfectly in the very beginning of the song and so it became this, for me, I think as Edward’s anthem.
Pretty Woman: The Musical — “Rodeo Drive”
Jesse Cannon: Right now, you’re hearing the song “Rodeo Drive,” and Orfeh’s going to tell us a little bit about how that song evolved in the show.
Orfeh: A lot changed from Chicago to New York, other than just Andy becoming Edward Lewis. There were numbers such as “Rodeo Drive,” which is my number. It was a completely different number staging wise. The song is exactly the same, but there were no bodies on the stage pretty much doing the choreography, and the costumes are completely different, and now we have you know black dress, white dress, stay up all night dress. We didn’t have that. It was pretty much, I said to Jerry, “The way we’re doing it now, you might as well hand me a mic and let it turn into a fantasy rock and roll number,” because it’s not a production number in the sense that it’s telling the story as it’s happening.
So, I think that was a major change as far as the numbers were concerned. There was a song in Act 1 before “Rodeo Drive” that was completely different, which is now “The Luckiest Girl in the World.” They handed it to Samantha one night and she learned it immediately. She has that kind of a memory and it became “Luckiest Girl in the World.”
They would do that all the time. They would hand us new lyrics, they would hand us new script pages. They would hand us new staging and blocking. That’s pretty much how it is in previews, and you can’t say, “Hey, I can’t do this.” You know what I mean? I remember a time, I’m going back to “Legally Blonde,” but they completely changed my opening verses in “Bend and Snap,” literally 20 minutes before the curtain.
I’m really good. I’ve got a photographic memory; it doesn’t take much. But it was even too much for me. I wrote all of the lyrics down on both of my wrists. I had them written all over me and I’m so glad that the theater in San Francisco was gigantic. It was a cavern. You couldn’t see me doing this and maybe from where you were sitting you thought, because I have tattoos, you would have thought maybe I just had more tattoos than you knew me to have. But that happens all the time.
Jesse Cannon: Here’s Bryan and Jim talking about the breakneck speed of those changes and how it affected them.
Jim Vallance: Another real challenge was the song that’s now called, “Luckiest Girl in the World.” There was at least one or two songs there before that song came along, and again, I really quite the song that was there before, which was called “Look at Me Now.” It was called “Look at Me Now.” Which I quite liked. Jerry wanted a new song and that was a real challenge, because by that time we were in previews in Chicago. We were both getting a little burned out.
Bryan Adams: I’ll tell you how that came about, that song, actually. I’d gone home to hang out with my daughters. They had spread all of their stuff out in the living room floor and I looked … I woke up one morning and there was just shit everywhere. Toys and I was just like, “Oh, girls. You realize you’re the luckiest girls in the world?” So I wrote it to Jim. I said, “Jim, what do you think of this as a title?”
We’d come literally to the end of our tether. We didn’t know what to say at this point. He didn’t respond. Jim didn’t write back and I thought, “hmm, maybe he didn’t like it.” I was just getting on the plane to come back to Chicago to see him and “bling,” my email came up. Jim went, “I like it.” I was like, “Whew! Good.”
Jim Vallance: So we had a title. Then it was a style thing. We sat in Bryan’s hotel room in Chicago and we tried for days to come up with something for that song.
Bryan Adams: Yeah. I said we need to make this joyous. I said, “Jim, want something joyous and really uplifting. What music?” And he went, “gospel,” so we wrote a gospel song.
Right. Gospel revival.
The other story on that song was that we arrived on Monday, worked on Monday, delivered it on Tuesday morning at noon for the meeting. Had a four o’clock rehearsal for the song, for it to be in the show that night, OK? I went to the rehearsal at four o’clock and Samantha Barks, the singer, had learned the song. She wasn’t looking at a piece of paper. She already learned the song and I was standing there thinking, Sam, how did you, we just wrote this. She goes, “I don’t know. I just remembered it.” And so I thought okay, that’s a good sign and sure enough, it was in the show that night and it’s not left.
Jim Vallance: That’s one remarkable thing about the cast and the ensemble. All of them. They learn so quickly. So, they’re learning choreography, melodies, lyrics, and because Jerry is changing things daily, they not only have to learn something new every day, they have to forget what they learned yesterday. It’s absolutely remarkable to see how quickly they move forward.
Jesse Cannon: This is orchestrator, Will Van Dyke again on how those changes affected him.
Will Van Dyke: I mean, the end of the show, when we were in Chicago doing the out-of-town tryout, we changed the end of Act 1 and the end of Act 2 on a daily basis for like five weeks. It was incredibly, incredibly frustrating at times, but also super fun, because that is the great part and the difference. When you put out a record, you know, the record’s like, that’s it. That’s forever. The nice part of doing a musical and then putting out an original cast query is we get to mess with it so many times before we record it. We changed the end of Act 2 from a ballad to an up-tempo, to a ballad, to an up-tempo and how we got into it actually every day while we were in Chicago. We finally landed on the thing that told the story best for the show. When Bryan and Jim would write a song and give me the structure of something, the next piece of it…I think a great example of it is the great opera sequence “You and I,” where we weave in and out of a lot of La traviata. And Jerry was like, they go to the opera, but at the opera he’s going to sing this song to her. How do we create a six-minute sequence where we start in La traviata, get to this Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance song, and then get back into the opera, get back into the song and make it all feel seamless.
Marry those two worlds and then add 15 people singing backup vocals, which is not something that is generally on a Bryan Adams…wrapping my head around that stuff was the fun part of it. I have a weird — I don’t know if it’s weird — but when I sit down to problem solve like that, I can always remember, “Oh, I was in a hotel room in LA when I did the ‘Rodeo Drive’ arrangement,” but I don’t have the recollection of actually doing it. I just knew like, I’m in the zone. I know how to do this right now, so I’m going to do it.”
When that stuff hits, it just sort of hits. But like I was in LA, there’s so much traffic there and I had this thought on that song in particular. I was like, “What if the vocals sounded like LA traffic because they’re on the street, they’re wandering around.” I was like that’s the way to approach that. It was things like that throughout that just gave it the authenticity of what Bryan and Jim do, but not making it music theater vocals. It’s like a soundscape. Like a pop record.
Pretty Woman: The Musical — “I Can’t Go Back”
Jesse Cannon: Atlantic’s methods of making an original cast recording are already rigorous compared to most, but in order to play the strong suits of the musical, they changed things up a little bit. Here’s Craig Rosen, who’s A&R at Atlantic Records to explain.
Craig Rosen: The way Atlantic approaches making cast albums is sort of a hybrid between the original way cast albums have been made and the way pop and rock albums are approached. Typically, a cast album, you can’t record the album until the show opens because you’re not sure if the show is locked and what all the songs are going to be, so you’re in a rush because the show’s already out. There are also very specific rules about how all the actors are compensated, which makes the show pretty expensive to start with before you even get into the recording costs. Historically, the way these records have been made is you book a really big recording studio, and you get everyone to come in, and you essentially record the show live in the studio.
So maybe you do three takes of every song, but essentially, you get everyone in the room and you perform all of the songs, beginning to end, do a few takes, on to the next song. Then once all that is captured, you go through it, choose the best performances, edit it together, and mix it and get it out as fast as you can.
The way we approach making these records is we at least break it up into different steps. Rather than recording everyone at the same time, we start with the band, or depending on the size of the band, maybe just the rhythm section. In this particular case, we recorded the core band. Recorded all the songs with the core band over the course of two days, then spent a day just on strings, then spent a day with all of the ensemble vocals. And then for all of the lead vocals, we had specific time for each of the lead actors to perform all of their songs with sessions that were dedicated just to them where attention could be paid specifically to them, where their vocals could be performed under the direction of Bryan and Jim, so that we could capture the best performances.
What we give up in speed and cost, we like to think we make up for in quality. Then it also makes it so that no one can hide. When you’re performing in a big ensemble, it’s easy for one bad note by the third violin to be hidden there somewhere. But the way we record, there’s no place to hide. Everyone has to be on their A-game, everyone has to give their best performance, and if they don’t, we do it over, and over, and over, and maybe one more time after that.
Jesse Cannon: And here’s Bryan and Jim to explain their methodology on the production of it.
Bryan Adams: We’re just producing it. We’re not actually performing on the record. We’ll be there every note of the way to make sure it gets done how we imagined it.
Jim Vallance: I think the songs each dictate how they all sound.
Bryan Adams: We’ve got, there is a cast. The band. The band that’s working on stage with us, we’re taking them in the studio. They’re very proficient and it’s a huge amount of people, that’s the main thing. To find a studio any more that can accommodate that is almost impossible. The big studios in New York are all closed and we’ve chosen Power Station, which I’ve had a good experience with. I used to record my records there back in the ’80s, so I knew that that studio was brilliant, fought for it and they were actually closing for this particular time, but stayed open for us. They were going to renovate it. It’s the same studio as it was in the ’80s. It’s the same carpet I think, so the reason is let’s get the musical… there’s only so many isolation booths. How many people are in the ensemble? There’s like 16 people?
Jim Vallance: 15 in ensemble I think.
Bryan Adams: Yeah, so there’s just not enough room. Yeah, I think I’ve got connections.
Jim Vallance: The other reason to carve it up and do band then do ensemble is just the time restriction. Musician’s union literally dictates how much time we have. We have approximately 20 songs to record and we’ve got three, three-hour sessions to do it in.
Bryan Adams: Just repeat that so everyone can hear that again, OK? Just for those people that like to make records, 20 songs in…
Jim Vallance: Three, three-hour sessions.
Bryan Adams: OK, so chew on that folks.
Jesse Cannon: While Bryan and Jim are down playing how fast this was made, those experienced in the original cast recording saw it a little bit differently.
Orfeh: Yes, it was very unique. Bryan sat literally three inches away from me the entire time in the studio with me and pretty much tailored it the way he wanted it to be performed. He would sing the line and I would sing it back the way he wanted it done and I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world. He has a very specific vision. It’s not even huge. It is that which it needs to be in his mind, comes out of his mouth and then you are to emulate that as best as you can, with it being your spin of what it is that he does. First thing I ever played on a guitar when I was a wee little girl was the opening strings of “Summer of ’69.” To have this crazy full circle moment as an adult, we had the best time. I sometimes would mess with him. I’d be, “How was that again? What do you want? Can you sing that again for me? Can you do that again? Could you do it like three more times?” We had the best time.
I loved it. I don’t know that it wasn’t unnerving for other people who haven’t done this a lot, and I’ve done this a lot and I still haven’t had the writer sitting next to me. But when it’s Bryan Adams, it’s the coolest thing in the world. I had the best time. I had literally the best time recording my stuff.
Jesse Cannon: And here’s Andy talking about his experience in the process.
Andy Karl: I’ve done some Broadway cast recordings. It’s my 13th Broadway show, so I have some experience to speak of and mostly, most of the time when I’m doing cast recording, I have two days, maybe two days. It’s usually one from 10 a.m. to 6 at night, or whatever, to get all these songs down. That’s about, I’m saying, on the short end of a Broadway cast recording — you’ve got 15 songs and everybody’s got to get their own. You basically take your performance as you do on stage and you bring it to the mic. It may sound a little different. You do a little bit different things.
This one was unique, but they’re coming from how songs are recorded in studio and how vital it is to get the right sound and the right phrasing in order to get your emotions from your ear to your heart. I have, on stage, my physicality. I’ve got pauses that I can do, that I’ve got looks to a different character that you can see and follow your heart through a full performance. On a CD, you’ve got just your ear. You rely so much on it, and I think Bryan and Jim have their…they’re on the pulse of that. They know what that is. They know how to drive an emotion.
Bryan really made sure that every phrase was how he wanted it. To me, that was cool the first day, then I was like OK, this is my third day in and he’s telling me how to sing every single line of this thing. I’m like, what kind of bullshit is this man? I’m not even inflicting my own thing on this. And then I heard the recording and I’m like, this sounds amazing. A great pop album. I’m so happy he did that. I’m so glad that they took the time to make that work that way.
Jesse Cannon: Here’s Craig talking about how the label had to balance out that perfectionism.
Craig Rosen: What was interesting working with Jim and Bryan, who are used to making rock records where you’re really not on the clock — and you can keep trying things, and being creative, and doing different performances, and trying different takes — is that while they appreciated the latitude they were given and how we make these records, we also had to pull them back a little bit, because Bryan’s instinct is to keep trying things until not only you get it right, but that you get it best. We gave him as much leeway as we could, but every once in a while had to say, “Uh, hey. Let’s actually stop here.”
One of the things that was really unique about this or interesting about this is there’s always the process comping and editing, whether you’re making a cast album the traditional way or making it the way we approach these records. There is always that process of okay, we have this many performances of this song, what’s the best drum part? What’s the best bass part? What’s the best guitar part? What’s the best vocal part? And pasting those things together. I have never seen anyone get as far into the details as Jim Vallance did on this record, reviewing every single take, every single note, searching for perfection in every performance, in every detail. No rushing, no compromising, always exploring every single option and if it wasn’t there, trying to figure out how to make it be there. That part of it is reflected [in] how awesome the performances ultimately sound.
Jesse Cannon: Bryan made some of his seminal works with producer Mutt Lange who is known for being one of the most meticulous vocal recorders in the history of music, so I asked if that played into it at all.
Craig Rosen: He references Mutt Lange quite a bit when talking about how to make records and how to produce, and certainly if I suggested at all that he might be going off the rails, he always had an example of something Mutt would have done that would have been far more eccentric or extraordinary.
Jesse Cannon: Just as the show had to change as they saw the audience reaction, the cast recording has to change in order for it to adapt to a recorded format.
Will Van Dyke: When you make a cast recording, you want to make sure that it tells the story of the show, but at the same time, there’s a lot of things that happen in a show that you don’t want on a record, like dance hits and dance breaks and things like that. “On A Night Like Tonight” is a great example. There’s a dance break on the cast recording, but on the show it’s almost three times as long. There’s so much to look at and it works with the music and there’s all these hits, but out of the context of the show, it just sounds like a little crazy. In “Welcome to Hollywood,” for instance, there’s a lot of dance hits and arrangement things that we sort of…we took out for the record just so it would play like a pop song. Without the visual of people freezing on stage and things like that, it really, I think you lose the sense of what’s happening and it sounds more like a cacophony of sound rather than a song.
Jesse Cannon: Now Orfeh’s going to tell us about how her part has changed.
Orfeh: My entire “Rodeo Drive” is completely different for the recording, because at night, eight times a week, for a live audience, and especially the way I sing, I take a lot of liberties. I do a lot of fancy tricks and rifts and craziness that when you do a recording — I come from the record business — you can’t really…you have to be more contained, you have to be more encapsulated. You have to make it radio friendly, for a lack of a better way of saying it, and you can’t do the stuff that you do live for an audience on a record. I think that Bryan and I and Jim, we knew that when I went into the studio I would have to be more restrained.
It was not a vocal quality that’s more restrained, but it’s more like the growls, and the rifts, and the craziness, and the extra lengthy notes and moments. You can get away with that on stage. You can’t get away with that when recording something. We’ve made a pop CD. We have made a bonafide pop CD that happens to be based on a musical that’s currently running.
Jesse Cannon: As if all these changes throughout the show weren’t enough to deal with, once you make the cast recording, the musical has to adapt to some of the sounds that you’ve recorded. Bryan and Jim are now going to talk about the colors they had to paint with from that.
Bryan Adams: But we try to keep it simple. Guitar, bass, and drums, keyboards. That’s all you need. And then we have some strings.
Jim Vallance: There was discussion early on about the guitars, keyboards, bass, and drums was a given, but we had three more instruments that we were allowed based on I guess budget and theater size. Whatever dictates that. The opening number started as an R&B song and the demo we did have horns on it. The first few songs after that had horns as well as I recall. At least on our demos.
Bryan Adams: Much to my chagrin, by the way. But I just knew that it was going to be problematic.
Jim Vallance: The horns are still there on the opening number, but they’re…it’s a sample.
Bryan Adams: It’s not horns.
Jim Vallance: It’s a sample of horns, but the idea if the arrangement is still there. By the time we got about half or three-quarters of the songs written, it was obvious that horns were not going to be an element. Then we had to decide: where do we go from there? Strings was the next obvious choice. When I went to see “Evan Hansen,” their format was two keyboards, two guitarists, bass drums, violin, viola, cello and that seemed to work pretty well for the orchestrations in that musical. That’s what we ended up going with.
Jesse Cannon: Here’s Will talking about how they adapted the other sounds into the pit orchestra.
Will Van Dyke: In the show we have Ableton Live. We had a drum programmer who, because of the way Jim and Bryan write with drum loops and percussion loops and things like that, and also, “I Can’t Go Back,” that sort of sound, iconic, like 16th note gated, synth thing. That’s all running through Ableton, so we’re on a pretty strict grid in the show. With the record, just import that into Pro Tools and go from there. Each song. Every song has its own guideline and it comes in and out. Like “Freedom” is a great example. There’s some loops and a click that comes in halfway through that song, but then it drops out on the bridge so we have a little more freedom to follow Andy and then it comes back at the end. It weaves in and out of the show, and it’s also if you see “Pretty Woman” doing a show like that where it’s strictly clicked in places, it makes the visual of the show a lot more exciting, because the lights can be timed within an inch of their life to hit where the dance hits hard because it never changes, which is great. It also keeps everybody honest. When you do something a 100 times, you’re like, “eh, maybe we should do it a little faster tonight.”
Pretty Woman: The Musical — “Never Give Up On A Dream”
Jesse Cannon: I think it’s always interesting to get insight on what makes a creation so special from those a part of it. I turned here to Andy to tell me what he thinks.
Andy Karl: Every show is different. I’ve done a ton of movie-to-musical transfers. “Rocky,” “Groundhog Day,” “Legally Blonde,” “9 to 5.” Done a ton of them and each one is unique in its experience of what the goal and the mission is by the directors and the creative staff. How are we going to approach this? So “Pretty Woman” is very iconic. There’s a lot of iconic lines, a lot of iconic looks. Edward Lewis can’t come in not being a millionaire. He’s got to know how that rolls. This show gives you the nostalgia that the movie has in that way where you’re going in as an audience member, and when you’re seeing the scenes come up that you, “oh this is where they,” but we’re going to do it in a unique way that’s for the musical. And there’s going to be music added.
We’re enhancing an idea, so it’s really a fun game with the audience, knowing most of the people coming to see the show know and have seen this film. They get to discover it again in a unique way where it’s like they think something’s going to happen and then it becomes this huge musical number that instead of the head of the Beverly Wilshire showing Vivian how to eat with a fork, he shows her how to dance. Yes, that may seem a very simple idea for a musical, but it’s actually this great moment in the show.
Jesse Cannon: And here’s Orfeh, talking about what she thinks makes it so special.
Orfeh: I think the cast recording being unique is that it’s a CD. It’s like go to the store. Do people have records in stores any more? It’s a CD. It’s a drive, travel with, play it in the background when you’re having a party. It’s a bonafide pop CD. We just happen to be in a Broadway show that it’s coming from. I think the other thing is when you’re a great musical theater actor, and everyone in this cast is, often times you think people are having a great time on stage and there’s so much going on back stage that people literally want to kill each other. This particular cast is as close and is having as good a time as you think they’re having. That does not always happen that way. We are a wildly passionate, dysfunctional, in love with each other family. I think this is a uniquely interesting experience because we have a mega, mega, mega rockstar that wrote our songs.
I’ve had that experience before. I’m lucky that way, but this is really fresh, it’s really new and it was a massive soundtrack. The movie is a huge hit soundtrack and we’re not using any of those songs. It wasn’t necessary to drive this story forward.
Jesse Cannon: Thank you for listening. You can find all the episodes of Inside the Album on your favorite podcast app.
The original cast recording to “Pretty Woman” is out now.