Diana – A New Musical, telling the story of the life of Princess Diana, opened on Broadway on 2 March 2020 and played for just ten days before all New York theatres were closed down due to the Coronavirus outbreak. During the pandemic, the show was filmed (without an audience) and has now been released on Netflix, ahead of its Broadway reopening on 2 November 2021.
The show tells the unfortunate, true story about the marriage of school teacher (annoyingly referred to as ‘Kindergarten’ in the show which a British person wouldn’t say) Diana to Prince Charles. It shows the awful side to being part of the royal family, where a marriage has to happen because the popularity of the family is declining and they need a good news story. The Queen says “she’s the best girl for the worst job in England” and that Charles must marry and “do your duty”. The truth is that Charles is already in a happy relationship with Camilla, who is already married and so together they choose Diana to be his bridge as she will be impressionable and toe the line, allowing their relationship to continue. At least that’s what they think, but they have underestimated Diana’s drive and ambition and she turns things on its head, using her power to do good around the country.
The inclusion of romance novelist Barbara Cartland is a strange one (Diana’s step grandmother) and she ends up narrating the show with no real explanation as to why she is there, acting almost as a panto dame. The cast are all brilliant, the choreography wonderful (apart from the cringe-worthy scene where Diana is trying to teach Charles to dance to her kind of music), the songs catchy and a nice mix of ballads and up tempo numbers.
The costumes are divine and the set grand. There are a couple of very clever on-stage costume changes, including the big wedding dress moment.
The crux of the story is really how the media had it in for Diana from the beginning – hounding her everywhere she went and in the end, causing her death. The end of her life is touched on but the story doesn’t dwell on it.
The show is terrible in many ways. Above all else, lyrically it is an abomination with lines like “better than a Guinness, better than a wank”, “frimpy frumpy truffles” and “a feckity, feckity, feckity, feckity FU dress”. There is also “Harry, my ginger-haired son” and “I’m holding our son, jolly well done”. It’s hilariously awful but once you get past the shock of it, it’s actually quite good.
I think Diana – A New Musical will go down in history as one of the worst shows but it will become a cult classic. I have found myself watching it again and would jump at the chance to see the stage show live. I loved it for all the right and all the wrong reasons.
Reviewed by West End Wilma