Broadway in Chicago presents the Pre-Broadway debut of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA the Musical.
Lauren Weisberger’s first job out of college lives on in a best selling novel (2003), blockbuster movie (2006) and now a staged musical (2022). Weisberger wrote about the escapades of an Ivy League struggling journalist taking an assistant position to a world renown fashion magazine editor. The plot is familiar, Andy (played by the captivating Taylor Iman Jones) grapples with the demanding Miranda (played by the fierce Beth Leavel).
Whereas the movie focuses more on Miranda’s personal life -and who wouldn’t with Meryl Streep at the helm- and Andy’s glamorous transformation, this staged musical (book by Kate Wetherhead) broadens the story. Wetherhead and Shaina Taub (lyrics) give voice and song to supporting characters. Andy isn’t the only one having problems. Her roommates have job and relational pressures too. Her colleagues also are in career and identity crisis mode. At one point, the droll Javier Munoz (Nigel) humbles a surprised Jones with ‘That’s right, I have a backstory!’ Wetherhead and Taub’s words infuse depth into these characters’ pasts resulting in heartfelt moments in their presents.
Director Anna D. Shapiro, along with her design team, paces this tight and with flair. Shapiro’s talented ensemble are ever-moving as they continually strut, sneer and scorn. Christine Jones and Brett Banakis (scenic and media) use a revolving stage to aid the people and rooms gliding from the forefront to the background quickly. As a prelude to the ball, Shapiro stages the chorus singing and dancing in front of the curtain. They exit. The curtain lifts. A grand staircase is revealed. The haughty, hottie models majestically descend. Later, the action moves from NYC to Paris elegantly as two side structures bend together. And when Andy returns to NYC, falling cherry-blossoms create a dream-like sequence. This show is really, really pretty!
Since the show is about fashion, looking good is paramount! Arianne Phillips (costume), Campbell Young & Associates (hair and wigs) and Diane Kendal (makeup) provide an array of unique, stylish, full-on posh. Some of the best eye candy is at the ball as reds and golds shimmer and flow. Yet even in the office, the team ensures the ensemble is fashion forward. Initially, a chic Megan Masako Haley (Emily) dramatically contrasts the frumpy Jones. Later, Jones gets her vogue revenge in the number ‘Who is she?’ Jones captivates in her own fashion show revolution. Although Jones basks in a gorgeous wardrobe, Leavel isn’t as lucky. With some exceptions (her fabulous ballgown), Leavel’s outfits feel dated and dull. Phillips’ choices for Miranda don’t quite have the ‘wow’ factor befitting a global fashion mogul.
And who better to write the music for a show dedicated to all things fashion than Sir Elton John? A man legendary for both his music and his pizzazz appearance. John, along with Taub’s lyrics, compose the musical storytelling. Choreographer James Alsop adds to the audio-visual spectacle with subtle angular sophistication along with colorful playful kicks. In particular, the spunky ‘Dress your way up’ has Munoz and the ensemble give Jones an energetic schooling on career climbing attire. At the beginning of the second act, a passionate Masako Haley delivers the deliciously vengeful ‘Bon Voyage.’ She rallies her healthcare team to her defense in wanting Andy’s demise. Over in Paris, the impressive Leavel continually pivots between reciting a calculating speech and singing her burning truth. And a steadfast Jones closes the show with an inspirational ‘New Season, New Me.’ Although there is a song “The Devil Wears Prada” that ends the first act, it lacks the intensity for a title number or even a reprise.
I’ve read the book, seen the movie and now experienced the musical. I enjoyed each version for its similarities and differences. The bad boss story is relatable and witty. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA the Musical is a fun, fashion statement. This DEVIL is delightfully attractive and entertaining!
Running Time: Two hours and forty-five minutes includes starting twenty minutes late and an intermission
James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph
Based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger and the Twentieth Century Fox Motion Pictures
Book by Kate Wetherhead
Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Shaina Taub
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro
Choreography by James Alsop
Music supervision by Nadia DiGiallonardo
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays: 2 p.m.
Thru August 21st
Photos by Joan Marcus
For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago