Paul Rudnick is one of the funniest writers around. Reading his collected plays the other day, I burst out laughing at lines from “I Hate Hamlet,” starring the vainglorious ghost of John Barrymore; “The Naked Eye,” a sharp satire of the art world, and “The New Century,” featuring Palm Beach public-access host Mr. Charles, who proudly calls himself “the gayest man in the universe!”
All that was missing was a musical. Rudnick has never written one. So I was pleased to learn he’s teaming up with Elton John on “The Devil Wears Prada.”
“I always thought it felt like a musical,” Rudnick says of the 2006 movie about a monstrous fashion magazine editor and her long-suffering personal assistant (played, respectively, by Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway). “It has two strong female leads who have an antagonistic relationship in a heightened workplace. But it’s not just about fashion. Nobody really feels sympathetic to the problems of a model, but everybody can identify with someone who has a demanding boss.”
Rudnick contributed material to the movie but says, “I would never claim credit. Aline Brosh McKenna really pulled it together. And of course Lauren Weisberger’s novel is terrific.”
He says the musical will be based on both the movie and the novel.
Kevin McCollum (“Rent,” “Something Rotten!”) is producing the musical along with Fox Stage Productions (a division of 20th Century Fox) and Rocket Productions, run by John’s husband, David Furnish.
Rudnick’s been asked to try his hand at musicals before, but he was wary. “Writing a musical is one of the toughest things on the planet,” he says. “It involves a high degree of collaboration and a lot of blind luck. It’s daunting.”
But he couldn’t resist working with John, whose musicals include “The Lion King,” “Aida” and the wonderful “Billy Elliot.”
Along with the script, Rudnick will write lyrics to John’s melodies. But I doubt he’ll spend a lot of time at the musician’s homes in London and Nice, France. John, who performs all over the world, usually writes his melodies alone and e-mails them to his lyricist. He was traveling while “Billy Elliot” was previewing in London, so director Stephen Daldry stood in the wings and held his cellphone out so John could hear how the show was going.
Rudnick’s had a couple of meetings with John, and “once I got past my awe, he was very nice and down to earth.”
There’s no timetable yet, but Rudnick and John are both fast, facile writers, so look for it on Broadway sooner rather than later.
Rudnick, by the way, lives near me in the West Village and I often run into him on the street. The next time I do, I’m going to wag my finger at him and tell him to get back to work on “The Devil Wears Prada.”
“You do that,” he said. “And I’ll cut you in on the profits. Should there be any.”
Congratulations to Imogen Lloyd Webber, nominated for two New York Emmys on Thursday for her work on the WCBS-TV Tony Award special last June. She’ll be hosting “60 Minutes” before you know it.
And congratulations to Susan Haskins, producer and co-host of “Theater Talk,” nominated for best interview program. I’m on the show, too, but you’d never know it from the way Susan hogs the camera!
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