'Pretty Woman: The Musical' star Courtney Bowman on diverse representation in theatre
Pretty Woman: The Musical has a new queen in its cast! Courtney Bowman takes over as Kit de Luca. She previously played Anne Boleyn in Six in the West End, and most recently made history when she starred as Elle in Legally Blonde at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Omigod you guys…
Now, Bowman plays Kit in the hit West End musical based on the iconic 90s film Pretty Woman. Kit is best friends with fellow sex worker Vivian, and she gets to “burst in and supply all the fun bits between scenes,” exclaimed Bowman. “Which is my jam – I love it!” She also loves how a character like Kit allows her to be “big and bold and unapologetic.”
We chatted about what it’s like coming into this established production (and why it would be a big mistake to miss it!), and how both Legally Blonde and Six were life-changing experiences for Bowman.
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How have your first performances of Pretty Woman been?
It’s been so much fun! It’s such a great character — I’m just finding my feet, figuring out everything I can do with her. It’s such a change from Legally Blonde, where I was on stage keeping it going most of the time. Now as Kit I get to burst in and supply all the fun bits between scenes. Which is my jam — I love it!
Did you know the film beforehand?
Of course, it’s an absolute classic. Although I didn’t realise until last week that it’s my mum’s favourite film! The audiences are amazing, they’re so into it. Everyone on and off stage is just having a blast.
What’s your take on Kit de Luca?
I like to marry myself and my character — so it’s more easily accessible, and I feel more comfortable, but also it’s fun to be someone else, or a different version of me. I really enjoy that. With Kit, I’m being told to be bigger, which is the best – I’ve never been told that in my life!
Kit has some great outfits too, right? Are you rocking the leather jacket?
Yeah, she’s got some serious looks. I am rocking the leather jacket, but it’s not rocking me! Thank goodness I didn’t do this show in the 40-degree heat this summer. [laughs]
What are some of your favourite moments in the show?
It frightens me, but I enjoy it when I come on for “Luckiest Girl in the World” and basically scream for about 15 seconds, then it’s time to do a dance and then off again! It’s really fun having those big moments, but quite exhausting. It’s like in Billy Elliot, when Billy’s about to go on and do that big leap, and he’s warming himself up like “Energy, energy.” That’s me as Kit.
The score is great too, we’re having a blast. “Never Give Up on a Dream” is a really fun one to do. And finding moments to play with people. There’s real encouragement to connect with everyone and have those little jokes on stage, to form a community with the company. I love doing that — having those cheeky winks or stupid jokes. It’s a nice way to get to know people, not just the main cast but all the brilliant covers as well.
What’s it like coming into an established show?
So I rehearsed essentially on my own, then I joined [new ensemble member] Daniel Clift, and we did a few bits and bobs together. But everyone has been really nice, especially Andy [Barke, who plays Happy Man/Mr Thompson] and Aimie [Atkinson, who plays Vivian] – they’re the only people I really interact with on a one-to-one basis. Andy’s really taken me under his wing.
How do you think the show has been updated for today’s audiences?
I see Kit as having quite an old-school, tough attitude, like “We’re the bosses of this situation.” The women are really empowered — which, obviously, is something I enjoy in my career! Being able to be big and bold and unapologetic is so nice. The same with Vivian, it’s great watching her: she knows who she is, but she grows even stronger during the show.
Have your friends and family come to see you yet?
I had my dance teacher come to watch me. My mum couldn’t make it [in the first] week, but she’s got her plans. Something that’s sad but I’m really grateful for is all my pals are working – they’ve all got shows. Especially the Legally Blonde lot, we make sure we support each other the best we can, but everyone’s been messaging me saying “I’m so sorry I can’t come yet, I’m performing”, which I’m really glad about. That’s a good thing!
Speaking of Legally Blonde – it had such an incredible impact. Are you proud of that?
Honestly, I say this all the time, but I still can’t believe it happened. I’m like “…what? Was that real?” But I absolutely positively – ha, positively! – loved it. It was pure, pure joy. It feels like yesterday but also a million years ago. It completely and utterly changed my life – personally and professionally.
Having that representation, it meant so much to so many people. No two people look the same, right? But we don’t always have that on stage. The same with Pretty Woman – hopefully people will come see it and say “Oh, she looks like me”, or my daughter does, she’s represented here, or him, or them. It’s absolutely crazy that I get to be that person.
Did it give you more confidence that you were recognised as being this leading lady?
You know that you can do it, but you still doubt it… and then it happens and you really feel “Yeah, I can do it.” It means a lot to have that belief. Hopefully it’s setting a precedent for directors and casting directors to open their eyes more. Just look at what can happen.
When I was starting out, no one really looked like me on stage. That made me go “Why don’t they look like me?” – and if they do, why are they only allowed to tell stories based around that? There’s no need. Bigger people, people of colour, they can just have a great storyline. It’s so nice to see friends who look similar to me doing things too – it feels like a moment. It also inspires others, like “Oh I can actually go into this business, there’s people who look like me.”
Six was revolutionary in its representation too – did that feel significant to you?
Definitely, that was the kick-off point. I loved doing [Everybody’s Talking About] Jamie, but even there I was the only big person in the ensemble. Then Six, you’re seeing this diversity in the casts right across the world, on land and sea, and in the fans as well – the Queendom is awesome.
Now, you could make up a cast purely of plus-size girls who’ve been in productions of Six – there’s been one for every Queen. That makes me so happy. It’s not just “Oh, we’ll make Cleves and Boleyn big because they’re the comedy ones.” Everyone, no matter what size, or anything else, everyone deserves love – or, like, divorce, beheading or survival! It showcases the power that women hold, all kinds of women, who then have each other’s backs.
And now you’re playing another powerful woman in this big commercial West End musical!
Right, who’s queen of the street? That’s Kit! Actually yeah, that’s really cool too – it’s not just fringe shows that are getting that representation, it’s these amazing big musicals like Pretty Woman. Hopefully that will inspire people and everyone will feel welcome to come along and have a great time with us.
Photo credit: Courtney Bowman (Photo courtesy of production)
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