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Exclusive Interview: Adam Du Plessis Talks ‘Pretty Woman The Musical’

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Remember the 90s classic rom-com Pretty Woman? It’s a Cinderella story in its own right, as Julia Roberts’ character is whisked away into a life of luxury. Although, the transition comes with some challenges. This film was a staple in my home, as it was one of my mother’s all-time favorites. So to see that Pretty Woman The Musical was finally making its way to Detroit is very exciting! While the show doesn’t arrive until next week in my city, I was able to sit down via Zoom with Adam Du Plessis, who plays the role of Happy Man in the reimagined romantic comedy musical. 

In our conversation, Du Plessis talks about his journey to Pretty Woman the Musical, discussing his audition process, challenges for the role, and how Happy Man differs from other roles he’s played in his career. He also discusses what a typical day on the road looks like for him, what he looks for in cities across the US when he tours, and what his dream Broadway role would be! 

The interview with Adam Du Plessis on Pretty Woman The Musical

[Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. Warning for mild spoilers from Pretty Woman the Musical. You can listen to the full interview below, find it most places podcasts are available, or read on.]

Brian Kitson: Hey there, Adam. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Adam Du Plessis: Thanks for having me.

Brian Kitson: So we haven’t got a chance to see the play yet, but I’m really excited to be able to check this out next week. Can you tell me a little bit about your role in Pretty Woman? I know that you’re playing Happy Man. What is this role to you?

Adam Du Plessis: Well, so if for anybody who’s seen the original movie, what they’ve done is that they’ve done their best to take exactly what was on-screen and put it on stage. But how they facilitated that is that they’ve taken my character, Happy Man, where… If you remember the movie at all, right in the beginning, they were showing scenes of the streets of Hollywood and streets of LA. And there was a guy walking around going, “Welcome to Hollywood. What’s your dream?” And he was listed in the credits as Happy Man.

So what they’ve done is that they’ve taken that character Happy Man, that was only on-screen for all of maybe 10 seconds, and that they’ve created this fairy godfather type of narrator, who is the bridge that they used to translate this from the screen to the stage. And he interacts with the audience and basically guides the story along for them, for the audience.

Brian Kitson: So like the interface between the audience and what’s going on on stage.

Adam Du Plessis: Exactly. Yeah.

Brian Kitson: And that’s a different kind of role than maybe we would see from a lot of traditional musicals. Because as someone who goes to the theater often, it’s happening on stage, and we’re not always a part of that. What is that experience for you, interacting a little bit more with the audience?

Adam Du Plessis: It’s wonderful. As performers, we tend to branch out into a lot of different disciplines, a lot of different areas of performance throughout our careers. So I’ve had experience in hosting and MCing events, and what this role has incorporated a little bit of that experience that I’ve had in the past. And while it’s not a constant interaction with the audience, there’s always this twinkle in the eye that, are you following along? This is what’s happening. Remember this from the movie? That type of idea.

Because of my fairy godfather type of character, I also tend to appear in a lot of different areas, a lot of different roles. So that’s some of the fun that the audience can experience is that you see where I pop out up throughout the show, and it’s always a little bit of an in joke for us between me and the audience. And it’s a wonderful go between, and it allows you to really engage with the audience and feed off their energy.

Happy Man (Adam Du Plessis).
Happy Man (Adam Du Plessis). Pretty Woman: The Musical (Broadway in Detroit).

Brian Kitson: As you say, from an audience perspective, that sounds a different way to interact with it and to enjoy it instead of just seeing this beloved rom-com on stage.

Adam Du Plessis: Exactly.

Brian Kitson: Was there any pressure for you, knowing that this was such a beloved rom-com? I know I grew up watching this with my mom, it was one of her favorites. Was there any pressure from that aspect?

Adam Du Plessis: Yeah. These days there is a lot of movies that are being taken to the stage. So there are a lot of adaptations that are happening. But to be honest, it would be hard to top this one. Pretty Woman is so iconic and so nostalgic for so many people. There are my generation, my sister’s generation, it would be hard-pressed to find people who didn’t list Pretty Women in one of their top 10 all-time favorite movies. So yeah, there’s definitely a lot of pressure in terms of taking that iconic film piece of cinema that people… is such a part of their history in terms of entertainment and redoing it in such a different way while still staying true to the original.

So yeah, there is a lot of pressure. However, I think that through the music of Bryan Adams, which is so interesting because he is like a 90s rock star all the way, so to pair that with this 90s rom-com movie was such a clever move. And then having Jerry Mitchell come on board. And what he does is he very much brings to life the stories that you see on the screen and makes it pop out for an audience. It’s been very, very well constructed, and it becomes this seamless transition onto stage and this machine that just works so, so very well for audiences.

Brian Kitson: It’s awesome too, that people get to see these iconic scenes. But it sounds like they’ve changed a little bit, especially with your role, creating this role in a way that is different. So there’s something new to appreciate about this.

Adam Du Plessis: Yeah. Absolutely. I think if they had tried to do the movie 100% exactly the same without songs, without dancing, without anything, it wouldn’t be successful because what would the point be? So adding all these different elements with the singing, the dancing, and then fleshing out some of the side characters and then creating new characters all work towards making this a very well-rounded, enjoyable production from the get go.

I think that’s the biggest thing I can say about the show is that you’d be hard-pressed to not enjoy yourself when you go and see the show. It’s a show, and it’s a performance that just brings joy, and it’s wonderful to be on stage and experience the audience experiencing joy. It’s such a wonderful feeling for us that at the end of the show, when everybody is applauding and just showing their appreciation, it is a magical experience for us.

Brian Kitson: Awesome. So what was the audition process for you to get this role? How did it go for you?

Adam Du Plessis: Well, so what they’ve done, which is something that has happened in recent years, especially since the pandemic, is that casting directors have become more open to accepting initial tapes. Which is wonderful for us because a lot of us who are on the road with a show like this, if we’re not in New York for the auditions, sometimes we just miss out. So what they’ve become more receptive to is we’ll film an audition and then send it through to the casting director, and the casting director will take all the submissions and go through; and from there, they’ll pull people, and they’ll send the material from the show, and then you’ll film that, and you sent that in.

And then for the final callbacks, you have in person. So I was actually on the road with the National Tour of Tootsie when I auditioned for this. And the final callbacks happened to fall quite perfectly in one of my layoffs from tour.

So I was in Salt Lake City, I had to fly through to New York, get into a hotel room for two days, and then go in front of the director, DB Bonds, the choreographer, Rusty Mowery, and the musical director [Will Van Dyke]. And we had to audition for them. They called us back again, learned a little bit of the dancing, learned the singing, and that was for me, for the Edward and Vivian. Then they started pairing people up to see what chemistry they had together, of course, which is really important with a show like this.

And then the dancers had a different journey. Some people, we have people in our cast who understudied five different roles. So you can imagine that their audition process is like extraordinarily difficult because they’ve got to learn material from all those five different roles. So it is quite a process, and it’s quite a stressful process, but it’s part of this industry, it’s part of this job, it’s something that we have to go through. And fortunately, it worked out.

Brian Kitson: So how long ago did you find out you got the role, compared to now you’re touring? Is it years?

Adam Du Plessis: No, no, not years. I auditioned for this in March of 2023, I think I found out in May, early May. The initial audition was in March. Then all through April we started sending in tapes. And then in May is when I found out officially that I had it, I got it. And then we started rehearsals in early September. And we rehearsed for three weeks in the rehearsal room and then went and transitioned into a theater, and we tested the show for about 10 or 12 days. And then we opened up in Utica, New York, and we’ve been on the road ever since. I think we are in our about a 110th show by now. So we’ve been doing it for a while now.

Brian Kitson: Oh, wow. That’s a fast turnaround. You’re faster than I thought in my head, I guess.

Adam Du Plessis: Yeah. Yeah.

Brian Kitson: So, what have been maybe some challenges for you about playing Happy Man?

Adam Du Plessis: Oh, playing Happy Man. Happy Man is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult roles I’ve ever had to play. But saying that, it is also, without a doubt, the most enjoyable roles I’ve ever had to play. Vivian, the- Ellie Baker who plays Vivian, she’s on stage more than me, I think. Yes. No, she’s definitely on stage more than me. But apart from that, I’m the person that’s on stage the most. And then obviously Edward as well.

So it involves a lot of stamina, a lot of fitness, a lot of quick change, a lot of water, a lot of hot tea. This role specifically stretches through a whole bunch of different styles of musical theater and performance. So you have to have quite a broad base from the dancing, to the singing, to the acting, and all the different styles within that. But again, just to reiterate, it is one of, if not the most enjoyable role I’ve ever had to play.

Brian Kitson: So it sounds like you’re going from start to finish without fail.

Adam Du Plessis: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. In every city, we have a wardrobe team and I have a dresser who is waiting on the side of the stage with a little bottle of water and a little towel for me. So every time I run off-stage, I’m like, okay, oh okay, okay, I’m ready. Okay, I can go again. It’s quite an exhausting but enjoyable… Exertive. Let’s put it that way, an exertive experience. You cannot walk your way through this role. You have to be fully energetic the entire time.

Brian Kitson: Did you know that before going into the role, or was that a surprise as you were learning it?

Adam Du Plessis: It was a surprise. Interestingly, I had seen the show, I’d seen the show in Chicago, and that was pre-Broadway. I was on the road with Boots [Kinky Boots] at the time, and we were near Chicago, so a bunch of us made a little trip through to see the show, and that was a long time ago. That was in 2018. My memories faded and everything.

And also since then, the show as a whole has changed and adapted and been trimmed and fine-tuned. So the role has changed since then. And I wouldn’t be able to say whether it’s busier or not, or whether it’s… He does more now or not, I’m not sure. But it didn’t hit me when I watched it how busy it was going to be for me. So when I arrived, I saw the material, and I was like, okay, that looks durable. And then I started doing it, and I was like, oh, I need to start going to the gym.

Brian Kitson: Okay. So it’s good to have the cardio ready.

Adam Du Plessis: Absolutely. And when we get into high elevations, we played Colorado Springs, and we’ve just come from Reno. Reno is not even really that high up. But when you’re dealing with different elevation, oh, sometimes it’s hard to catch your breath when you’re used to performing at sea level.

I know that obviously, to a much greater extent, a lot of professional athletes have to adjust to different elevations and everything like that. And that’s something that all of us have to deal with as well, because as much as we’re running around changing and dancing and everything like that, we’re singing on top of that. And you can’t afford to be out of birth when you’re singing because the song and the words and the melodies still have to get across. So it does make it incredibly challenging.

Brian Kitson: Completely understandable. So, what does a typical show day looks for you? Or even a double show day? I know some days you have two shows.

Adam Du Plessis: So a single show day is glorious. We all love a single show day. Because if we’re not traveling on that day… Say for yesterday, for example, we got up in the morning and by 6:45, we were loading up the bus in Reno, at our hotel in Reno, and we got on the bus, and we drove through from Reno to Fresno. And we arrived at 2:30 at the hotel. And by four o’clock we were back on the bus to go through to the theaters to start doing soundcheck and meetings and everything like that to get the show up that night. So those days are particularly difficult when we travel into a show.

But today, for example, we have a show tonight at 7:30. So we get to wake up at our own leisure, go and have breakfast, have a lovely cup of coffee. And then we just get to explore the cities that we’re in, which is actually one of the most exciting things about tour is that we get to see the country, which is amazing.

But then once we’ve had our day, we generally arrive through to work anywhere from two hours to half an hour before the show, depending on how much time you need to get ready. But we all will be in the building by half an hour before the show because then everybody gets together, and then we run the show. On a double show day, those are a little bit tricky. That’s when you wake up in the morning, you have your coffee, and you go, okay, ready. I’ve got two of these to get through. And you have something to eat and you get ready.

And then in between the shows, you go and get something that is not too heavy because you don’t want to do a show on a heavy custard dish or tons of pizza. But yeah, those are our weekends. We are going to be in Detroit, obviously. And Detroit’s very exciting for us because that’s going to be one of our week sits. So we are there for the entire week, which means that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we have the whole day free to go and explore Detroit.

And we’ve got people who go on hikes. We’ve got people who love going shopping obviously, we’ve got coffee… I’m a bit of a coffee snob myself, so I try and find out local coffee shops and coffee roasteries especially. I love local roasters. And we’ll buy beans, and they take them with us because we have our little coffee set up in our room. And then, of course, after the show, we also deal with going to find a whiskey bar or a tiki bar. So we have our little routines in every city that we find.

We try and find something that brings us joy, something that is exciting and new for us. And Detroit specifically is also quite exciting as well, because Rae [Davenport], who plays Kit in the show, she’s actually from Detroit, so she’s been taking it up for ages. So she’s very excited to show us around, and she’s got a lot of friends and family coming through, which is always exciting. So yeah, our days are busy, but fun.

Brian Kitson: This is your actual 4th US national tour. Is this your first time in Detroit?

Adam Du Plessis: No. I’ve been to Detroit twice, actually. I was there with Annie in 2016 or ’17, and then with Kinky Boots as well. But the last time I was there, was in 2018, which was quite a while ago. And I remember Downtown Detroit seemed to be going through quite the renewal project when I was there. But there were little pockets that were really amazing already, and I can’t wait because now we’re six years on. I can’t wait to go and explore it again and see because there was some fantastic restaurants. I can’t for the life of me remember, but as soon as I get there, I’ll go, oh, I remember that one. I love going back to cities to see what has changed and how things are different. So yeah, it’s going to be very exciting.

Brian Kitson: I hope that you had the most fun here. Detroit has a lot to offer. You’re right, we’ve gone through a renaissance recently. So it’s good to have people come and explore that. Before I let you go, I got to know, though… Is there ever a dream role that you’ve had that you’ve always wanted to play or a certain show that you’ve always wanted to do that you haven’t done yet? Because you’ve done so many, Cats and Phantom of the Opera, to see Kinky Boots. There’s so many. When I saw your list, I was like, wow, he’s been in tons.

Adam Du Plessis: Yes. Yeah, I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve done a lot of really wonderful theater, wonderful shows. I would say, off the top of my head, there are two things. One is I’ve never done Les Mis, and I would love to do Les Mis. And then on the other side of that, pretty much anything from Stephen Sondheim. So I would just adore being in Sweeney Todd. Sweeney Todd would just be one of the most fantastic achievements. Just to sing the opening of Sweeney Todd, to be honest, the “Attend The Tale of Sweeney Todd” just is one of the most thrilling pieces of music. Yeah, so those two.

I would say Les Mis on this side because, oh, what a beautiful classic piece of true musical theater. And then any other Sondheim stuff, just because that fills all my inner theater… Not even inner, my theater nerd, musical theater nerdness, my geek, because Sondheim is on a pedestal for all of us, and rightly so.

Brian Kitson: I had just gone to New York in December and saw Sweeney Todd, and that opening song gave me chills.

Adam Du Plessis: Yes. Doesn’t it? It’s amazing that when everybody starts singing together, it is so thrilling.

Brian Kitson: Thank you so much for your time, Adam. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. And I look forward to seeing you next week when you’re in Detroit. Continue putting on a great show, and I’m so excited to see it.

Adam Du Plessis: Thank you. Thanks very much for having me.

Catch Pretty Woman The Musical when it comes to a city near you

Pretty Woman the Musical is currently on its North American Tour. Be sure to check it out when it comes to your city, as this is one you don’t want to miss!

Pretty Woman: The Musical: Discover A New Take on a Rom-Com Classic

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Brian Kitson

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