Based on the smash-hit film that turned Julia Roberts into a superstar, Pretty Woman is the big musical and it’s about to get even bigger. Following record-breaking runs on Broadway and in the West End, the show is heading to Manchester next year as part of a tour of the UK and Ireland.

And according to his wife Barbara and daughter Kathleen, director of the film and co-writer of the musical Garry Marshall would have been thrilled to learn of its ongoing success. He passed away in 2016, after working on the production with the movie’s writer J F Lawton for many years, dreaming that it might open in New York some day.

“Had someone told him it would such a hit around the world he wouldn’t have believed it,” Barbara smiles proudly. “Not only did it make it to Broadway, it’s bringing joy to so many people in so many other places.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Amber Davies and Oliver Savile will star in Pretty Woman: The Musical when it comes to Manchester next year                                                                      (Picture: Dan Kennedy)

Kathleen agrees. “As well as being a director my dad was a writer, which he saw as a lonely profession. He always said ‘Once you finish writing something you just have to bask in it because you’re going to be back in the room writing again soon’. So he would be just basking in the excitement that the show is doing so well.”

Set in the late-80s and released in 1990, Pretty Woman was conceived as a much darker story, with LA streetwise sex worker Vivian (Julia Roberts) struggling with a cocaine addiction and Edward (Richard Gere), the rich businessman who hires her for a week, abandoning her at the end.

Known for his heart-warming stories and flair for comedy, Garry worked closely with screenwriter J. F. Lawton to refashion it as a fairy tale romcom in which Vivian falls for Edward’s charms and she rescues him right back.

Marshall decided to make Vivian a more resilient character than she was in the preliminary draft. “After he got the script,” Barbara recalls, “he freshened it up and he made her into this strong woman.”

Garry was a canny choice to direct the movie, given his track record with uplifting women’s stories.

“And it’s sort of my dad’s story too,” his daughter points out, “because he came from the Bronx and he went to Northwestern University, where everybody was sort of a little fancier. Then he came to Hollywood and he was constantly his own fish out of water.”

Kathleen appeared in the film, as she did in all of Garry’s movies, as a desk clerk and she recalls it being an easy shoot. “It was a small movie at the time and the studio left them to get on with it. In my memories there’s a lot of Julia and Richard and my dad together, sorting out ‘How are we going to do this?’ and ‘How are we going to do that?’

The budget was $14 million and Marshall was amply rewarded when the film became the most successful romcom ever, with a worldwide gross of $463.4 million.

The idea of turning Pretty Woman into a stage show was her idea. Garry went on to direct the likes of Runaway Bride and The Princess Diaries.

“But I kept saying to him ‘You know, this could be a musical’ and he’d say ‘Yeah, OK’ but nothing happened. Finally, maybe 15 or more years later, he and JF started writing together one a day week, every Wednesday in Garry’s office for five years.”

Marshall himself said of the rewrite: “It’s always nice to do something again because you saw what you missed the first time. I must confess that the original Pretty Woman was terrific and a hit but I always felt that creatively I didn’t do justice to Richard Gere’s character.

“So in the musical we have some great new moments for Richard’s character. As much as he changed her life, she changed his life. That wasn’t totally clear in the picture, so we make that much clearer.”

The stage version strengthens the characters even more, Kathleen feels. “And they made it a little more modern but it’s still got the nostalgia and those iconic moments. I mean, people still love to see Edward arrive at that fire escape.”

Bryan Adams and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance were commissioned to write the all-new score, which is very much influenced by late-80s and early-90s rock and pop.

Roy Orbison’s ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ was added a few months into the show’s Broadway run, and Wesley and Alex Orbison even joined the cast on stage to perform the track as a tribute to their late father.

Eventually producer Paula Wagner came on board, as did director Jerry Mitchell. Marshall passed away in July 2016 at the age of 81 but the team was determined to carry on and fulfil his dream of having a show on Broadway.

“He was so excited about that,” Kathleen says. “He loved revisiting the story and transforming it into a musical, adding the songs and changing some of the structure. As Jerry Mitchell said ‘It’s all the things you love from the movie and more’.”

The original production played Chicago’s Oriental Theatre in March 2018, with Britain’s Samantha Barks and US actor Steve Kazee as the leads, and opened at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre that August - breaking box office records and enjoying a year-long run. Andy Karl took over from Kazee and during previews on August 2nd a performance was dedicated to Marshall, with none other than Julia Roberts in attendance.

“She came and met the cast and we took pictures on the stage,” Barbara remembers fondly. “She was very cute. We were sitting together during the show and she would lean over and say ‘I wrote that line’.”

The West End production opened at the Piccadilly Theatre in March 2020, with Aimie Atkinson as Vivian and Danny Mac as Edward. Forced to close because of the Covid pandemic, it reopened at the Savoy Theatre in July 2021, playing to packed houses until the final performance this June.

The musical also toured the US from October 2021 until May this year, and there has been a Polish-language production in Cracow, an Italian version in Milan and a Spanish version in Barcelona.

As it sets off around the UK and Ireland, Kathleen ponders why audiences respond so positively to this particular story.

“There’s a beautiful moment in Pretty Woman where you know that Edward really sees who Vivian is and Vivian really sees who Edward is, and that’s where they connect,” she said.

“There’s a joyousness in the way that people connect in my dad’s shows and films, and he did that in life as well. He really thought you should be there for people when it’s a hard day and be there for them when it’s a fun day.”

Barbara adds: “I think everybody remembers that movie as a happy moment or it helped them with something in their life.

“Now people come to this musical wearing the clothes, like the famous red dress or the trench coat with the same Julia outfit underneath, in the high boots and blonde wigs.”

And, as Kathleen points out, it’s not just for female audiences.

“They bring their husbands and boyfriends, who then end up really enjoying it too. There’s a lot there in the storytelling that’s really beautiful and romantic and uplifting, and I think everyone can connect to that.”

Pretty Woman: The Musical starring Amber Davies as Vivian and Oliver Savile as Edward is at Manchester Opera House from Tuesday, March 5 to Saturday, March 14. Details from