Image: © Fox / Sky Editorial Asset Centre

‘The Devil Wears Prada’ musical

All right, everyone. Gird your loins. The Devil Wears Prada is becoming a musical. This new take on the much-loved and infinitely quotable 2006 film is hitting Chicago next summer and should, if the rumours are true, be in London’s West End by 2021. 

Tickets will go on sale on the 6th October this year, where the story of aspiring writer Andy Sachs’ newfound position at Runway magazine in New York, under the acerbic dictatorship of its editor-in-chief and boss-from-hell Miranda Priestley, will be transformed into a musical comedy. 

But with the film version having found such success under the gently satirical direction of David Frankel and an A-list cast, which include Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci and the indomitable Meryl Streep, will the story’s third regeneration live up to the standards of its predecessor’s huge fan base?

The film allowed the narrative to develop beyond the book’s “roman-à-clef revenge fantasy”

The film began life as a popular novel of the same name by Lauren Weisberger, with Fox soon acquiring the rights and greenlighting the production after signing Streep. It is her character – who their former executive vice-president called “one of the greatest villains ever” – that musical theatre producers will need to nail if this new adaptation is to work.

In Streep’s hands, Miranda Priestley was elevated from a caricature to an uncompromising businesswoman at the top of her game. Not only did the film humanize Wesiberger’s original main character, it allowed the narrative to develop beyond the book’s “roman-à-clef revenge fantasy”, appealing to mainstream audiences and anyone who had felt like they had to compromise themselves in the pursuit of success. It will be difficult to replicate the winning formula of the film, which pretty much single-handedly launched Emily Blunt’s career, catalysed Anne Hathaway’s transition to more adult roles and further success in Hollywood, made over $326 million worldwide and imprinted itself on the cultural consciousness as the film about fashion. The cast of the upcoming musical – as of which there have been no official announcements – have big boots to fill. 

Film-to-musical adaptations haven’t always gone down well. Legally Blonde: The Musical followed the film version six years after its release, opening on Broadway in 2007 to mixed reviews and ultimately closing a year later. The New York Times’ Ben Brantley cited Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde’s leading lady, as a crucial component of the film’s success, and argued the musical version lacked the same star quality and ultimately simplified its characters. The popularity of Ghost (1990), which became the highest-grossing film of that year due in part to performances from big names like Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg, also failed to translate onto the stage and Ghost: The Musical warranted cancellation after poor ticket sales. 

Without the original ingredients that made it popular, will the musical have the same charm as the film?

But it’s not all bad news. Legally Blonde: The Musical had much success in Europe following its tricky start in America. The Lion King, which is due to celebrate its 20th anniversary on London’s West End this year, has become one of the most successful musicals of all time. Matilda: The Musical, which succeeded Danny Devito’s hit 1996 film broke the Olivier Awards record a year after its release. Mean Girls: The Musical is currently running at the same theatre The Devil Wears Prada is expected to hit in 2020, and Variety’s Joe Lynch praises the stage version for its subtle modernisation of the original 2004 movie: proof that, with the right ingredients, musical theatre can recreate and re-contextualise original stories; begetting critical acclaim and huge commercial success. 

With Elton John contributing to the score, The Devil Wears Prada: Musical is unlikely to be a complete flop. But without the original ingredients that made it so popular, will the musical version have the same charm as the film? Personally, I’m open-minded, and I’ll probably buy a ticket if the production does come to London. After all, musical theatre is an entirely different medium to film, and that could pave the way for something exciting and fresh. But I’m not sure anything will ever beat hearing the opening lines of KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See” and knowing you’re settling down to watch two hours’ worth of Meryl Streep verbally decimating anyone who comes within a five-foot radius.


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