Explore the fantastic stage musicals of Elton John ahead of 'The Devil Wears Prada'

Follow our guide to the shows composed by legendary pop star Elton John, including The Lion King, Billy Elliot, Tammy Faye, and the forthcoming West End musical The Devil Wears Prada.

Julia Rank
Julia Rank

Truth is, no one can do what he does. Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947, Elton John has been one of the world’s most successful pop stars and songwriters since he released “Your Song” in 1970.

Collaborating with lyricist Bernie Taupin, some of his greatest hits include “Tiny Dancer”, “Rocket Man”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “I’m Still Standing”, “Are You Ready for Love”, and, of course, “Candle in the Wind”, which was revised as a tribute to Princess Diana following her death and became a seminal cultural moment.

Theatricality and complex emotions have always been at the heart of John’s work. His showmanship, his extravagant costumes, and the famous parties we love to hear about have become legendary, so it’s no surprise that he’s had enormous success as a musical theatre composer too. John’s latest musical The Devil Wears Prada is due to arrive in the West End this autumn.

Read our guide to the musicals of Elton John – including current and former hits.

Vanessa Williams as Miranda Priestly – The Devil Wears Prada – Photo credit Matt Crocket

The Devil Wears Prada

The hotly anticipated musical version of the novel by Lauren Weisberger and the film starring Meryl Streep arrives in the West End this autumn following a tryout in Plymouth. John is working with a new set of collaborators for this run: the lyrics are by Shaina Taub and the book by Kate Wetherhead (both worked on new feminist Broadway musical Suffs).

Star of stage and screen Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives) plays formidable fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly, and Olivier winner Matt Henry (Kinky Boots) plays fashion director Nigel. Further casting is to be announced. Surely there could be no better vehicle to showcase John’s love of OTT haute couture and diva culture?

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The Lion King

John’s first foray into musicals was via the 1994 Disney animated film The Lion King, with lyrics by Tim Rice. The story of Simba, the adorable lion cub whose father is killed by his uncle, has echoes of Hamlet and the score masterfully combines whimsy with gravitas. “The Circle of Life”, “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”, “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (which won the Academy Award for Best Song) have become modern classics.

The stage version of The Lion King premiered on Broadway in 1997 and in the West End in 1999. The show retains John and Rice’s original songs and they also provided three new numbers. For a quarter of a century, it’s been a favourite family show and the perfect introduction to theatre for young people thanks to the invigorating and earworm-ish score, Taymor’s inventive staging, and the fabulous puppets and costumes.

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Moulin Rouge!

Based on Baz Luhrmann's divinely decadent film, Moulin Rouge! is a spectacular jukebox musical featuring dozens of classic pop songs – but the rapturously romantic “Your Song”, John’s first big hit, is one of the highlights.

The song comes in the gorgeous Elephant Love Medley, as star-crossed lovers, aspiring composer Christian and consumptive cabaret star Satine, start to fall for each other. It's the perfect fit for a show which is all about how art and life, and creativity and love, are irresistibly intertwined.

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John and Rice teamed up again for Aida, a rock musical inspired by Verdi’s opera of the same name. Set in Ancient Egypt, the musical tells the story of the forbidden love between enslaved Nubian princess Aida and Radames, the dashing leader of the enemy army who is engaged to Amneris, daughter of the Pharoah. The show premiered on Broadway in 2000, and the score features Motown, reggae, gospel, pop and African influences.

Despite a three-and-a-half-year run on Broadway and winning four Tony Awards (including Best Original Score), the show has never been performed professionally in the UK (though the amateur rights are available). It has, however, been performed extensively internationally and translated into 16 languages.

Billy Elliot

From Ancient Egypt to 1980s County Durham. For this quintessentially British megahit, John teamed up with playwright Lee Hall (who later wrote the screenplay for the 2019 Elton John biopic Rocketman). Billy Elliot was directed by the 1999 film's director, Stephen Daldry. The story of a motherless young boy from a mining family who discovers a love for ballet is the perfect basis for a musical – it’s amazing it wasn’t originally conceived as such!

The stirring numbers include “Expressing Yourself”, “Solidarity” “The Letter”, and “Electricity”. The show won four Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical, and played at the Victoria Palace Theatre for nine years. Its British charms transferred to Broadway for over three years, where it won a whopping 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.


Not all of John’s shows have been long-running hits. Alas, the critics really got their fangs out when they saw Lestat, based on Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. The show closed after two months on Broadway in 2006.

Its failure is perhaps particularly surprising given that John reteamed with Bernie Taupin, the lyricist who has worked on all his massive pop hits, while the book was written by Linda Woolverton (screenwriter for Disney's Beauty and the Beast). Might this undead show have a future life?

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Tammy Faye

More than 15 years after his last foray into musical theatre, John returned with a very different kind of show. Staged at the Almeida Theatre, Tammy Faye tells the story of the colourful American televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker, who became a gay icon due to her advocacy for LGBT rights and her support of AIDS patients. Scissors Sisters frontman Jake Shears provided the lyrics and multi-award-winning playwright James Graham penned the book.

London Theatre’s 4-star review commented that John’s score “supports the narrative superbly. He gives Tammy big girl-power anthems that blow the roof off the Almeida.” The show has yet to transfer to the West End, however, it will open on Broadway this autumn, with Katie Brayben reprising her Olivier-winning lead role.

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