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Review: ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ musical opens in Chicago, not yet ready for its runway spotlight

The reason Lauren Weisbergers satirical memoir The Devil Wears Prada became famous was not just because of the juicy schadenfreude y movie with Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. Its because Weisberger was self aware enough to see that the thirst for power included herself.On the one hand she took out her knives and dissected the terrifying tastemaker Miranda a stand in for Anna Wintour a bourgeois feminist survivor with veiled vulnerability. On the other she knew that the very act of writing the memoir meant that her alter ego Andy was no different from Miranda even though she shrouded her hunger for the spotlight in virtue signaling and that obnoxiously righteous Brooklyn style cocktail of stubble-faced chefs.

Weisberger knew that ambitious 20 somethings desperate for glam media jobs will ice their elders quicker than they can say I am holding space for you. She implicated herself and reaped her just rewards.So of course did Streep and Hathaway immensely skilled players both. But the main problem with the bland and hesitant new musical version of The Devil Wears Prada which features a book by Kate Wetherhead and a score by Elton John and that opened Sunday night in a Chicago tryout under the direction of Anna D. Shapiro is that it has not yet found the guts to follow that same track notwithstanding the huge satirical opportunity. More specifically Weisbergers sexy self aware satire has been given a moralistic tack which Miranda would hate even more than cerulean sweaters.

For sure the show is reasonably entertaining. But especially given all the COVID considerations it is far enough from finished as to not have deserved so many coastal media judges in the Nederlander Theatre Sunday night laying waste to the concept of the pre-Broadway tryout very Miranda. As they say in every Zoom meeting there is a lot more work to be done.The show first has to deliver a more legitimate runway experience Arianne Phillips costumes are fine as theatrical design but I suspect the audience for this will expect something that feels more like the work of actual fashion houses. Neither of the two leads played by Beth Leavel and Taylor Iman Jones have enough of their own distinct style and weirdly the show blows right past the big switcheroo in the movie when the geeky Andy reinvents herself as a stylist of high couture. Act 2 is stronger in this regard it helps a lot when the show leaves New York and hits Paris but its still a major issue.


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