• Al Jennings

Review: "Diana: The Musical"

In the world of Covid we’ve had a lack of new theatrical pieces being performed so, I guess we’ll take what we can get right? But, there are some topics and subjects that should remain out of bounds when it comes to creating a new and exciting piece of theatre. The tragic story of Diana Spencer should be one of them. Netflix has never shied away from giving us hard hitting and controversial viewing opportunities but agreeing to premier a brand-new musical before it even opening on Broadway is a bold move.

Logically, it makes perfect sense for “Diana: The Musical” to exist. Her story lends itself perfectly to Musical Theatre and she loved it herself. I can imagine she would be thrilled that she had a musical story to rival Evita.

“Diana: The Musical” maybe bringing the “people’s princess” directly to the public; but twenty years on from her death, it feels wholly inappropriate from the outside looking in. However, just a couple of minutes in and you completely forget this and are rooting for Diana, even though we all know how the story ends. You are almost yearning for the story to be different and for Diana to bring down the monarchy. Setting the tone from the outset with a soaring power ballad entitled “Underestimated”; Jeanna de Waal, who portrays Diana almost immediately understands the brief and portrays the princess with class and sophistication yet bringing the sass that she served.

Whilst the musical walks a fine line between truthfully recreating some of the widely publicised moments in Charles and Diana’s marriage and taking the absolute piss and descending into somewhat parody at times. It gives credence tabloid gossip too much and therefore calls into question its integrity. “Diana” gives “Evita” a run for her money in the costume change department, with some incredible transitions and on-stage changes incredibly executed. How this will transfer into a live production is anyone’s guess. The medium of film can hide a multitude of sins, but if they pull it off in a live setting then it’s something to be revelled.

There are some interesting musical moments. One example being every time that Charles opens his to sing, he modulates into a completely different key, which becomes comical at times. Camilla Parker Bowles comes off terribly in this production, which makes it hard for the audience to sympathise for her and Charles as a couple. Lyrically it is lacking with some lazy writing and choice lines about Prince Harry being ginger. A musical highlight is the Charles solo; “Diana” something that seems to have been lifted straight out of the failed Broadway musical Rebecca and the Act 1 finale; “Pretty, Pretty Girl” which really stands out as one of the strongest parts of the show.

For me, what I really wanted out of this musical a moment where both Diana and Camilla lay everything down and belt out of their love for Charles to each other. An ‘I know Him So Well’ moment if you please. There are moments where they seem to be heading for one, but we just miss the mark each time. “Diana” is as camp as Christmas at moments, but still manages to feel authentic and even moving at parts, such as the scene between Diana and the AIDS patients which is tastefully done and very moving.

Heading towards the climax of the show we all know where it’s heading, and whilst I won’t give the end away, it is very tastefully done.

Whilst this is very much aimed at the American audience, I wonder how Diana would be transferred to the West End. Are the British audiences ready for something as polarising as this because it’s very much a love it or hate it piece? The British hold Diana on a pedestal and I just don’t know whether the British would appreciate this.

Whilst it’s still miles ahead in front of the catastrophe that was Cats, I don’t expect Diana to be setting the Tony’s alight next year. “Diana” is certainly better than a Guinness, but I would still rather have a wank.

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