‘The Prom’ Producer Adam Anders on Working With Ryan Murphy, Getting Meryl Streep to Rap: ‘She Had Swagger’
Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of “The Prom” is now streaming on Netflix, bringing the songs of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin to the screen in all their glittered glory. Producer Adam Anders, whose work with Murphy traces back to “Glee,” was tasked with recording the soundtrack. He spoke to Variety about adding a creative stamp to an existing recording, becoming a producer on the film and how Meryl Streep recorded her rap for “Wear Your Crown,” the film’s closing credits song.
“Wear Your Crown” wasn’t in the original show. Where did the idea to add it originate?
We wanted to write something new, and the obvious place was in the end titles. We had this party scene and Ryan said we needed a girl empowerment anthem that you can dance to and take the film out on a high. He was clear he wanted it to be Adam Anders, Peer Astrom, Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin all paired up. Since we were in lockdown, it was tricky. Peer and I wrote it and presented it to Matt and Chad. They loved it and we finished it.
We had to figure out how to record it. I think we did five cities in three countries; a trailer and two closets. Nicole [Kidman] was in a trailer in Australia. Ariana [DeBose] was quarantined in Vancouver and she was in a closet singing. Jo Ellen [Pellman] was in her parents’ living room in Cincinnati. Meryl was the only one in the studio in New York, and it was challenging to put together, to say the least, but I’m so happy with how it turned out.
OK, but that rap Meryl does, who knew that Meryl Streep could rap?
Truthfully, I had it in my head that James Corden would come in and do it because of “Carpool Karaoke.” But Ryan said, “No! Meryl’s rapping.” I thought it was the best idea ever. … Of course, I don’t know if she did a deep dive on Nas or something because when she walked in, she lowered her voice and had this swagger. I called her “Snoop Streep” and filmed her doing it. It was so much fun and I said to her, “I hope you realize this is a career-maker for me.” And she said, “This is a career-breaker for me.” I told her, “That’s okay, you’ve had a good run!” And that was our banter.
You’ve worked with Ryan Murphy before on “Glee,” do you remember what he told you about “The Prom?”
I was out of the country when he called me. He took a break from musicals after “Glee” because we all needed a break because it was a big one and a grind. To his credit, he’s a loyal guy and I was in Rome when I got that call. He said, “Go and listen to ‘The Prom.’ I listened to it and called him back and he said, “We’re making a movie with Meryl Streep.” He got me super excited about and then we started plotting together.
When you’ve got an existing cast recording, how do you reinvent it with different arrangements and put your stamp on it?
I got to see it on Broadway and I was able to get a really good sense of what they were wanting to do. Broadway cast recordings are tough because they record those quickly and they don’t get to maybe go all the way with something.
Thanks to Ryan, we were able to fully realize some of the things that were the intent of the originals. So, rather than trying to reinvent something great, let’s take it to the next level. Let’s make the movie version bigger.
We had a huge orchestra in London and I was in there when it shut down. It’s been a crazy ride, but we were very fortunate because it would not sound the way it sounds now had we not done those recording sessions.
You are also a producer on the film, why was it important for you to step into that role creatively?
There’s so much music — 20 songs — two-thirds of the movie, and it made a lot of sense for me to be involved from start to finish and not just do the songs in a vacuum. Ryan is also so great about elevating his people and pushing his people forward as well. He invited me to be a producer on it. It was a huge honor to produce a Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden and Kerry Washington film. It’s where I’ve been heading and it was a natural progression. It was fun to see something from its embryonic stage to the completed version. Whereas if you’re a music producer, you’re just in this tiny little box.
There’s little score to the film, how did you balance that out when so much of the film is already music-driven?
It almost becomes connective tissue. That was a COVID project. We use the original songs a bit in the orchestra. Dave Klotz was the music supervisor and we needed somebody to write stuff. He started working on it, but he also worked with Matt and that was smart to have him involved because Matt had worked on the original songs. When you have 20 songs in a movie, there’s not a lot of time to lean into the score, but when we needed those emotional beats, we got them.
Listen to songs from “The Prom” below:
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