Everything We Know About Broadway-Bound Musical The Devil Wears Prada
The show is set to debut next summer in Chicago.
This week, we learned that Chicago audiences will be the very first to see Elton John's new musical adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada when it plays the James M. Nederlander Theatre next summer (July 14-August 16, 2020). This Story of the Week will compile everything we know about this stage adaptation of the popular film, and speculate about when we might see it on Broadway.
What is The Devil Wears Prada?
Based on Lauren Weisberger's novel of the same name, The Devil Wears Prada was one of the biggest films of 2006. It starred Anne Hathaway as Andy Sachs, a fresh-out-of-college journalism major who takes a job as personal assistant to Miranda Priestley, the editor of Runway Magazine. A soft-voiced tyrant with an icy gaze, Priestley tests Andy with a series of seemingly impossible demands — and Andy remarkably comes through. But as her new job increasingly takes a toll on her personal relationships, especially with her sexy-as-sin boyfriend (played by Adrian Grenier), she has to decide if this is the life she really wants.
Meryl Streep received her 14th Oscar nomination for her performance as Priestley, a character largely seen as a fictionalization of Vogue editor Anna Wintour (Weisberger worked for a period as Wintour's assistant). Both Streep and Wintour's legends have grown since The Devil Wears Prada, a hit that brought in $300 million at the box office. The DVD occupies a place of prestige on the shelves of many young professional women and gay men — the kinds of people who also really enjoy Broadway theater.
Why is it becoming a musical?
This is a story that sings. The characters (especially Priestley) are just so over-the-top and the emotional situations so fraught that it is very likely they will receive their truest expression in musical form. Even in the film, Priestley's arrival on the floor is an event that resembles a production number, so I cannot wait to experience it with full theatrical lighting and choreography.
There are commercial reasons why this musical is happening too. For millennials, The Devil Wears Prada occupies the same territory as Mean Girls: an instantly quotable movie from the oughts that has rewatch value. Seventeen months after opening, the Broadway adaptation of Mean Girls is still doing brisk business at the August Wilson Theatre. Depending on the success of the book and score, The Devil Wears Prada has the potential to be just as big a hit, if not bigger.
Who is working on it?
We learned that Elton John was collaborating with playwright Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey) on The Devil Wears Prada in 2017. In the summer of 2018, it was announced that actor-composer Shaina Taub had joined the team as lyricist.
That was a significant summer for Taub, who at the time was starring in her Shakespeare in the Park adaptation of Twelfth Night. In my review of that show, I wrote, "[Taub's] songs are not only catchy but dramatically efficient, slicing through exposition and serving up objectives with a dexterity few other contemporary musical-theater composers possess." I hope she is able to bring that same dexterity to Prada.
Directing the show is Anna D. Shapiro, the artistic director of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre who is better known for helming significant American dramas like August: Osage County and the last Broadway revival of Of Mice and Men. The Devil Wears Prada will be her first Broadway musical.
Not so for the composer. While most fans still know him for his glittering pop career, Elton John has become a significant composer of Broadway musicals in the last two decades, with both big hits (The Lion King, Aida) and infamous flops (Lestat) under his belt. He hasn't come to Broadway with a new musical since Billy Elliot in 2008, so his return is sure to be a major event.
No casting has been announced, but we at TheaterMania were already dreaming about the ideal candidates for the job back in 2017.
When will we see it on Broadway?
Dates for the Broadway run of The Devil Wears Prada haven't been set, but if the Chicago tryout goes well, I would conservatively expect to see it in New York by 2021. The turnaround from the Chicago run of The Cher Show to first previews on Broadway was 3.5 months. For Pretty Woman, it was only three months, even with a major casting change. If The Devil Wears Prada follows that timeline, it could be on Broadway as early as December 2020.
But the out-of-town tryout is a step in an artistic process, not an assembly line. As Jake Shears, Elton John's collaborator on another project, recently mused, "Musicals are nothing but heartbreak. They take forever, they're so stop-starty ... There's so many things that can go wrong."
The creative team behind the forthcoming Britney Spears musical Once Upon a One More Time recently discovered that when it delayed its Chicago run several months, from this fall to spring of 2020. The producers backing the Michael Jackson musical Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough opted to cancel that show's Chicago tryout in favor of a cold open on Broadway in the summer of 2020.
There is a world in which actors playing Michael Jackson, Miranda Priestley, and a whole slew of fairytale princesses (that's the Britney musical) will be in contention for a 2021 Tony Award — but that's only if these shows make it to the finish line of a Broadway opening night. When it comes to Broadway, slow and steady wins the race, even if that frustrates its least patient fans.