The musical “Devil Wears Prada” is a big mess

CHICAGO – “You have no style or fashion sense,” fictional magazine editor Miranda Priestly remarks viciously in The Devil Wears Prada.

She’s attracted to her dowdy future assistant Andy, but the same scathing criticism should be directed at Lauren Weisberger’s cheap new musical adaptation of the film and novel, which premiered Sunday night in Chicago.

theater criticism

2 hours and 30 minutes with one break. At the James L. Nederlander Theater in Chicago.

Call the fashion police. The shockingly unfunny and sluggish show, with a score by Elton John and Shaina Taub, is dud after dud and the worst screen-to-stage move in recent memory.

Considering the startling film qualities that have been cynically dragged to Broadway in recent seasons, it’s an achievement worthy of the Guinness Book.

Every song sucks and there’s nothing here worth fixing.

No convincing artistic effort was made to reinterpret the film and book into something new that makes logical and convincing sense on stage. Almost every plot point is identical to the 2006 film, which was smooth, sexy and satisfying and earned Meryl Streep a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

But “Prada” should have been completely revised. When the cinematic story is set to lifeless music, it becomes dreary and slow; frumpy and boring; laughless and sterile. The “devil” wears thin.

Andy (Taylor Iman Jones) works for Runway magazine with Nigel (Javier Munoz) and Miranda Priestly (Beth Leavel).
Andy (Taylor Iman Jones) works for Runway magazine with Nigel (Javier Munoz) and Miranda Priestly (Beth Leavel).
Johanna Marcus

It’s still about Andy (Taylor Iman Jones, able and structureless), an aspiring New York journalist who unwillingly becomes Runway magazine’s second assistant, a stand-in for Vogue, led by Miranda Priestly (Beth Leavel) — a cruel one , but brilliant editor a la Anna Wintour, who rules the fashion industry with icy looks and knockdowns.

A Kmart mayhem at first, Andy learns how to navigate the treacherous waters of Runway while alienating her pesky Brooklyn friends and boyfriend, and incurring the wrath of first assistant Emily (Megan Masako Haley).

Composers John and Taub, author Kate Wetherhead, and director Anna D. Shapiro have squandered beloved source material despite borrowing heavily from it.

First Assistant Emily (Megan Masako Haley) tutors Andy (Taylor Iman Jones).
First Assistant Emily (Megan Masako Haley) tutors Andy (Taylor Iman Jones).
Johanna Marcus

The early feelings of the storyline have been cautiously and stupidly updated to the mores of 2022. Andy is now a progressive nerd Gen Z and Miranda is, I dunno, Nancy Reagan?

When Andy says she thought she was going to an interview on a Vox-like website called City Dweller, Miranda calls the publication “a liberal echo chamber.” Later, the fearsome editor sneered, “Who has time for purses when democracy is at stake?!”

What the hell? Nobody in the fashion world would ever say that, especially now, and it’s a completely wrong way to define the mysterious character.

Miranda is a big hurdle for the musical because she shares so little. Musicals, of course, depend on excessive sharing. It’s a ballad. To make up for this early on, Leavel sings some awkward patter songs like she’s the idol of a modern major editor. Later, her act 2 big number at a Parisian luncheon is a vocally impressive Cruella de Vil tune, but unforgettable and oddly placed. So Miranda was cast in a supporting role.

Leavel, a hilarious vocal powerhouse on “The Prom” and “Drowsy Chaperone,” was miscast here. Along with the writers, she makes Miranda seem like a mean middle manager rather than a major cultural icon.

Andy and Miranda strangely never sing a duet, which we wait all night for. Instead, the climax is a boring, softly spoken scene.

Javier Munoz plays Nigel, a fashion editor at Runway.
Javier Munoz plays Nigel, a fashion editor at Runway.
Johanna Marcus

There are many womp-womp ways like this. For example, Andy’s seedy roommates (Christiana Cole and Tiffany Mann) and her chef (Michael Tacconi) are given too much stage time, singing a hymn about losing her friend to her job.

Another whiny number is sung by Nigel, Runway’s editor-in-chief, in Paris about growing up gay in Kalamazoo. “I used to hide in closets, but now I take care of them,” he sings. You got Prada to fool me.

Regardless, the best part of the show is actor Javier Munoz, who plays Nigel. His material is sickly old-fashioned Queer Eye for the Straight Guy-style jokes, but he has incredible energy.

Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway starred in the film version of "The devil Wears Prada."
Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway starred in the film version of The Devil Wears Prada.
©20thCentFox/Courtesy of Everett C

Some will see Prada for John, who wrote us the big Broadway musicals The Lion King and Billy Elliot (and the bad musicals Aida, too), along with Tiny Dancer and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. and “Lestat”).

But Devil has overtaken the misguided vampire debacle Lestat as the worst incidental music of John’s career. None of these songs will appear on the set list of his inevitable final, final, final farewell tour.

Too bad. “Prada” was never a deep film. Streep was sensational and upped what was handed to her. What the stage show had to do was build an intoxicating world of New York fashion, let us inhabit this exclusive club, and give us a chic good time.

Instead, we got an ugly boredom.

Most regrettable are Arianne Phillips’ dresses – even in Andy’s dress-up act called Who’s She? They’re nowhere near as fabulous as Bob Mackie’s spectacular looks on The Cher Show or Amneris’ outfits on My Strongest Suit” from John’s “Aida”.

What should have been an haute couture musical is hopelessly ready-to-wear.

https://nypost.com/2022/08/07/devil-wears-prada-musical-is-a-haute-mess/ The musical “Devil Wears Prada” is a big mess

Emma Bowman

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