Diana: The Musical Review: Princess Diana & Prince Charles' doomed marriage gets an uneven pop rock treatment

Diana: The Musical, the pro-shot Broadway show makes its streaming debut and it's a tale of monarchy told with a rock twist starring Jeanna de Waal and more.

Updated on Oct 02, 2021   |  12:36 AM IST  |  100K
Diana: The Musical premieres on Netflix on October 1
Diana: The Musical releases on Netflix on October 1

Diana: The Musical

Diana: The Musical Cast: Jeanna de Waal, Roe Hartrampf, Judy Kaye

Diana: The Musical Director: Christopher Ashley

Diana: The Musical Stars: 3/5

We live in a time when broadway shows are now coming to streaming platforms and while I danced with joy when it came true for Hamilton, it may not be the same for other shows. Sure, I understand that the charm of a Broadway musical lies in its live presentation but with the pandemic putting a dampener on most joys that can be experienced outdoors, we must settle for Broadway streamings too. As for Netflix's latest offering, Diana: The Musical, the Christopher Ashley directorial that was pro-shot ahead of its opening night is the latest addition to the dearth of content that revolves around late Princess Diana.

The British Royal family has been the subject of several films, TV shows and web series over the years and Broadway shows too, so it almost feels like what new could another addition offer. Ashley's Diana: The Musical is written by Joe DiPietro and set to a unique pop rock or glam rock score by Bon Jovi's David Bryan who turns composer and lyricist for the show. Diana: The Musical centers around Princess Diana's fairytale wedding-turned-nightmare in the Royal family and offers no new insights to the rather famous, cautionary tale about making fantasies come true.

The musical takes off from Diana (Jeanna de Waal) discussing with her sister Sarah whom once Prince Charles (Roe Hartrampf) courted about the latter taking a liking to her. Jeanna's Diana is carved out to be the commoner with "Charlie boy" posters in her room. The Prince of Wales (Hartrampf), on the other hand, is busy taking notes from his "friend" Camilla Parker Bowles (Erin Davie) on whether Diana is the right fit for him. What follows is the tale known to all as the musical chronicles Diana and Charles' wedding, the birth of their sons Harry and William and their eventual divorce. All the key moments are served on high notes until the tragic climax hits with flickering lights.

With ample books, movies, and other pop culture items already available about the persona that Princess Diana was, the new musical seems like an on-the-surface, cliche work. Sure, there's no new phenomenon to offer in a story that has been retold ample of times but unfortunately, it seems like the musical doesn't do much justice to the very person under whose very name it has been titled. While it ticks all the boxes when it comes to showcasing Diana's major moments from her social work to her famous quotes, it lacks the depth to make us feel her angst, her depressive state, her claustrophobic state in the structured and at the same time fractured monarchy. Unfortunately, her breathless state inside the tall walls of Buckingham Palace isn't conveyed well using the set design either which could have been more impactful.

While the focus remains on Diana (de Waal) and Charles (Hartrampf), there's little light shed on the monarch, Queen Elizabeth (Judy Kaye) whose most significant moment in the musical comes towards the end in an absolutely lovely score of "The Officer's wife." Another number that's catchy and will hold your attention is the paparazzi number "Snap, Click," though the trench coat costumes seem a bit of an obvious choice to make them look like sketchy figures. Overall, the costumes apart from Diana's iconic looks, seem caricaturish rather than being natural to the era the show is set in.

To name a favourite bit from the show would be the moment when Diana and Charles enjoy an evening of Cello. It's here that we meet Diana, as the 19-year-old, soon-to-be royal, who in her mind plays rock tracks and hopes that she'll one day turn Charles into a hip guy who doesn't listen to music from "dead white men."

After Emma Corrins' much-applauded performance in The Crown and Kristen Stewart's early reviews about owing Princess Diana's character, Jeanna de Waal faces tough competition to bring to life one of the most loved royals. As the People's Princess, de Waal channels the head-tilts and dazzling smile of Diana well enough. She showcases her beautiful vocal range impressively too. As for Roe Hartrampf's Charles, the endearingly handsome actor fits the part of the jealous prince. Tony Awardee Judy Kaye doubles as Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana's step-grandmother and author Barbara Cartland seems underused for her talents.

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David Bryan's score remains catchy and the lyrics while at times corny do leave you with a chuckle or two. There's wordplay like the "Bloody mess/British press" in songs that sounds undeniably banal but it does fit into the pop-rock beats well. The climactic song of "If (Light of the World)" by Jeanna de Waal is impactful and her exit amid the flickering flashlights hinting at the paparazzi involvement during her tragic death, makes for a fitting end to the unsavoury tale.

All in all, Diana: The Musical feels like a long two-hour ride but will still hold interest for those who have a liking towards consuming all kinds of content there is related to Lady Di. While a decent watch for streaming, it surely doesn't guarantee to be a memorable watch for Broadway fans. 

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