Will the Devil be the new black this autumn?

Devil Wears Prada Musical

The Devil may, or may not, be impeccably dressed. However, as UK audiences will be able to attest later this year, the demon could be lurking in our expectations. Good and bad.

In keeping with the ongoing vogue for endless rehashing – book to film to stage, etc – Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 bestseller The Devil Wears Prada will continue down the runway of adaptation when the Jerry Mitchell helmed West End production of the novel’s musical iteration premieres at the Dominion Theatre in October.

Yet, this is no ordinary re-packaging effort. As a musical, the Elton John scored The Devil Wears Prada already has history. It’s 2022 Chicago debut was not well received. As one reviewer noted, “Every song is lousy, and there is nothing here worth fixing.”

Typically, this would frighten off future production. Fast forward two years, though, and Amanda Priestly (played so marvellously by Meryl Streep in the 2006 film version) is once again preparing to dose out more of her elegantly attired tough love. Yet, it is surely a sartorial irony that a show set in the highly fashion-centric world of the New York style magazine should require a quick outfit change to keep it current. This, however, is a motif with which Priestly would be well familiar.

Thus, having crossed The Atlantic, Devil 2.0 is being “substantially reworked” for its UK run. Cue: multi-Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell to direct and choreograph. With a list of credits that includes similar screen/stage hits (Legally Blonde, Pretty Woman), he has been licensed to give the show a full makeover.   

As you might expect, its West End wardrobe and staging will also be updated. Indeed, it appears that the 2024 version will be an entirely different beast.

Here again, we confront the devilish fact of audience expectation. Weisberger’s book and David Frankel’s film were both hits. In the character of Amanda Priestly (said to be a fictional take on the infamously acerbic Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue), and in the struggles of her young assistant Andrea (Andy), both novel and movie managed to capture a fascinating corporate and cultural microcosm, whilst tying it to a rite-of-passage journey. To translate that into the musical format was always going to require more than the new season’s hottest lipstick shade.

Perhaps this helps to explain the less-than-lukewarm response the 2022 Anna D. Shapiro production received. Even if we are yet to see the film or dip into the book, a story set in the world of couture and high-end style comes with its own pre-set list of must-haves. When a show that name drops European chic is criticised for its outfits, as the now charity-binned US production was, you know that the devil is, as ever, in the stitching. (As we go live, designer Gregg Barnes is busy tailoring an entirely new kit for the West End season.)

In the entertainment business, as in fashion, yesterday is apt to become the new tomorrow, and the team behind the latest adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada will surely be working hard to ensure that their retro-themed adventure will once again be on trend.

If not, Amanda will certainly be on their case.  

By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.

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