I expected DIANA: THE MUSICAL to be horrible and ghastly, and it wasn’t that. Nor is it a top-notch Broadway musical with an unforgettable score, riveting scenes and memorable characters. But it is a commercial smash which has already played the West End, is heading for Broadway, and no doubt will tour for the rest of our lives.
In this COVID year, we have another hot stage property filmed for streaming distribution, this time as a Netflix special event, like COME FROM AWAY, and EVERYBODY’s TALKING ABOUT JAMIE before it. If you like dish and gossip, this will be right up your alley, and if already love Diana, climb onboard
The plot of Joe DiPietro’s book rehashes what you most likely already know. Unpleasant and unfaithful Prince Charles (Roe Hartrampf) and his unpleasant companion Camilla (Erin Davis) scheme to pick a naïve girl to be Charles’ wife. The unpleasant queen (Judy Kaye) is unsure of this plot. The only person not aware is the very pleasant Diana (Jeanna de Waal) Perhaps because of the shallow treatment of the leads, I was quote moved by the inclusion of stories of Diana’s famous visits to Britain’s AIDS wards.
Hunk (Gareth Keegan) plays James Hewitt who in this version rises shirtless on a mechanical bull before becoming Diana’s lover, leading to the very interesting quartet ‘Him & Her (& Him & Her)’. David Bryan’s score will remind you of a lot of other better musicals, like SUPERSTAR or JERRY SPRINGER. While there are many ballads which rise to the extended American Idol high notes, you will not remember any of them, other than Diana’s opening number ‘Underestimated.’
The production design, however, sizzles, with great costumes – many of which are instantly recognizable as what Diana really wore – by William Ivey Long. I particularly liked the reporters’ coats which were voluminous enough to serve as capes during the many ensemble spins. David Zinn’s set quotes famous London architecture in pleasant and surprising ways. Director Christopher Ashley and choreographer Kelly Devine work well together as is seen in the far superior COME FROM AWAY, and the show pulses and drives through two easily digested acts.
DIANA THE MUSICAL wisely stays away from the grisly, and smartly does not dramatize her children. If you love Broadway musicals and history, you will want to see it once. Or you can wait till your nieces high school puts it on in 10 years or so, and you can catch it then.