Jeanna de Waal in Diana: The Musical.
Diana: The Musical
WHERE TO WATCH:
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
The dazzling and devastating life of Princess Diana takes center stage in this original musical, filmed in advance of its official Broadway opening.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Warning this review contains strong language.
The story of Princess Diana has been told time and time again, from many perspectives and using many different mediums. But I have to say a musical about the People’s Princess had me intrigued.
Twenty-four years after the death of perhaps the most notable British royal in history, Netflix welcomes an originally scored musical that tells the Princess of Wales’ dazzling and devastating life story. Filmed ahead of its official Broadway opening on 2 November, the musical attempts to entertain with the voices of Jeanna de Waal as Princess Diana, Roe Hartrampf as Prince Charles, Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles and Judy Kaye as Queen Elizabeth II and romance writer Barbara Cartland, Diana’s step-grandmother.
I won’t beat around the fact that we are far from lacking in the Princess Diana content department. First, there’s the forthcoming movie Spencer, which stars Kristen Stewart as Diana. And then there’s Netflix’s elder daughter, The Crown, which recently announced that the penultimate season will premiere in November 2022. And while you’d expect to learn something new from each offering, Diana: The Musical adds nothing fresh or substantial to our understanding of her as a wife, mother, royal or celebrity. She remains one of the most famous and talked-about people on the planet. Still, this production merely repeats in a rushed, glossy manner what we already know about her.
The score itself, composed by David Bryan, comprises unmemorable tunes that sound as though they belong in a made-for-TV parody. With lyrics such as “There’s Charles who is happy when he’s hearing music by dead white men,” and “a thriller from Manila with Diana and Camilla,” all one can actually do is laugh.
In addition, it’s unclear just who the target audience is for this: Hate watchers? Or people who collect plates bearing the faces of the royal family?
In an interview with BBC, writer Joe DiPietro states that he worked hard not to make the musical cheap and cheesy. But, unfortunately, this song-and-dance extravaganza is disappointingly empty, and I found it to be everything DiPietro says it’s not.
Another note DiPietro makes is that he didn’t cast Princes William and Harry as he felt it was too exploitative, yet the show attempts satirising the relentless media scrutiny Diana endured and the archaic standards of the monarchy she rejected – is that not exploitative?
Perhaps the only best part of this production is the multitude of wardrobe changes asked of de Waal – many of which occur right before your eyes and with a bit of deception. One example is the moment de Waal steps into Princess Di’s wedding dress. I had to rewind and rewatch the moment just to try and figure out how she did it – I still don’t know.
Furthermore, Costume designer William Ivey Long does a great job recreating dozens of Diana’s most famous outfits. This includes what has been dubbed by the show as Diana’s ‘Fuck You dress’ better known as the off-the-shoulder, form-fitting, black silk Christina Stambolian dress the late princess wore to an event hosted by Vanity Fair on the same night Prince Charles confessed to having an affair with Camilla.
Diana: The Musical is a confusing mishmash with no wit or bite and certainly won’t leave you with an earworm after the credits roll.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: