Review: Diana The Musical

Recent events discourage mass gatherings including live shows. As a result, it has never been easier to access professional recordings online that we would have never otherwise been able to see without an expensive ticket and a potential road trip. One such show is a new Broadway musical about the life of Princess Diana, who died tragically young almost fifteen years ago. This musical dropped on Netflix last Friday, the same streaming service that hosts The Crown, which also covers a major portion of Diana's life in its most recent season. Between the two productions, The Crown gives much deeper insight into Diana's ascension to royalty and subsequent downfall. As a fan of musical theater, I was expecting a lot more from the stage show. It has lackluster songs and a superficial plot that covers only the basics of Diana's relationship with Prince Charles and never delves into the deeper emotions and themes produced by their struggles.

Poster for Diana the Musical featuring Diana's profile with a diamond tiara and the words "The story you only thought you knew"

Upon watching this musical, I couldn't help but notice similarities to Bombshell, the faux Marilyn Monroe musical from the 2012 NBC series Smash. Though Bombshell was only shown in bits and pieces, both shows feature a real-life pop culture icon who was beloved by the public, had a difficult personal life, and died tragically young. One of the things I disliked about Bombshell is that the actress who plays Marilyn sings the opening song that introduces the audience to her world. Diana does the same thing, which diminishes the "fish out of water" feeling that they were trying to convey. All of the best musicals--Wicked, Sweeney Todd, Hamilton, etc.--begin with an ensemble cast of secondary characters introducing the audience to the setting and the way the protagonist is seen by the public before revealing the protagonist and how they don't quite fit into the world around them. It was a poor choice to give Diana the opening song because nobody is capable of talking about themselves from an objective perspective.

There was also nothing in this show that made me feel like I was getting to know the side of Diana that wasn't always in the spotlight. We barely see any of her personal life before Prince Charles proposes to her, and almost every subsequent song after the wedding is about the way she was seen by the media, which was represented by a large group of photographers in matching trenchcoats waving cameras around everywhere and singing upbeat melodies. Diana even sings a song about how everyone sees her as a "pretty pretty girl in a pretty pretty dress," but the song is presented far too literally and never gets reprised to reveal that there's more to her than that, which makes her come off as a bit of ditz when she has an affair in the second half of the show to fill the void in her heart that was left by her husband's love affair that continued throughout her entire marriage. She is presented as a wild child due to her love of dance and common upbringing, which doesn't quite fit with the warmth that she gave to the public, but I suppose that was the writers' way of trying to show us the "real" Diana.

There weren't any particularly memorable songs in this show. Most of them were extremely repetitive and paused the story rather than driving it forward. I learned a lot more about Diana's life from her sequences in The Crown than I did from this show, which seemed to draw most of its plot points from tabloid articles that came out during that time period. I would have liked to hear more heartfelt songs from Diana about how hurt she was by Prince Charles's love affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and the way she wanted the public to see her. Even though Bombshell was never made into a full musical, they still managed to portray these themes better with songs like "Never Give All the Heart," which is about how Marilyn Monroe only felt loved on a superficial level and that all she wanted was for someone to love her for who she really was. This musical implied the same about Diana but never drove the point home with a truly heartfelt song like that one. The best song in this show is the final number, "If," which concludes with Diana's tragic death, but even that didn't pack as strong of a punch as its Bombshell counterpart, "Don't Forget Me."

 

Overall, Diana The Musical is a generic Broadway show that covers only the most basic aspects of the life and times of Princess Diana. It might be good for someone who knows absolutely nothing about the people's princess and wanted a brief introduction to her story. However, if you are looking for a deeper exploration of her personal life, I would skip around to the corresponding scenes from the fifth season of The Crown. It's kind of funny how a musical that was never completed can express the themes that Diana was trying to portray on a much deeper level. If nothing else, this show gave me a better appreciation of the songs from Smash and made me realize how similar of a life Princess Diana shared with Marilyn Monroe.

Comments

PrincessContent said…
I had a lot of fun while watching this! I really liked it!
Sure, compared to other musicals this one is pretty generic and I agree on that it brings absolutely nothing new to the table regarding Diana’s life.
Still, I really liked it. I liked the scenery, the quick changes from scene to scene and I was impressed by all Diana’s quick dress-changes.

Also I disagree on that giving Diana the opening song was a bad choice. The overall theme I think they were trying to go for is that this is Diana’s story and she is the one telling it. But I can see your point :)
It would have been really fun if they mucosal had given us something new about Diana or given us a new perspective to view it from. The upcoming movie Spencer seems to want to do that so I’m looking forward to that.

I hope now is that Netflix, along with other steaming platforms, will open their doors for more and much greater musicals.

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