A stage adaptation of someone’s life story is hard. There are constraints right from the start. Choosing the important moments in that persons life. And most importantly, doing justice to the subject. It takes a very good creative team, and lots of trial and error to make the project work.
Diana: The Musical is the first Broadway show to be filmed and streamed before opening on Broadway. After a successful tryout in California, the show was halted during previews due to the COVID -19 pandemic. The cast reunited in early 2021 to film the show for Netflix, without an audience.
Based on the life of the Princess of Wales, the musical tells the story of Diana from her marriage to Prince Charles at 19. Till their headline making divorce.
So what gets the royal seal of approval?
It's giving you what you want. If someone brings up a stage version of Princess Diana. You think about the wedding, the fashion, and the scandal. Not to mention a strong woman who had to deal with a lot of both in and out of the palace. And this show is giving it to you. Everything you're expecting to see is there.
The score. I didn’t know what to expect. The music was written by David Bryan, known for being the keyboardist in Bon Jovi. You definitely get the pop/ rock vibe. With a dash a Broadway thrown in. And of course the 80s power ballad. Diana’s solos we’re a great highlight for me. Nice music to listen to
Jeanna de Wall as Diana. She is working her ass off up there! Not only onstage but backstage as well. She changes in almost every scene she's in. Her portrayal is not an impersonation, which I appreciated. More of a young woman thrown into the spotlight. Or in her case, the royals. Also her voice is incredible. So smooth and beautiful to listen to.
The staging. The set is gorgeous and the way it’s used is very clever. Using lighting and choreography to make it seem bigger than what it is. Very well done.
“Secrets and Lies' ' it was widely known that Diana had a connection to the LGBT+ community. Particularly those living with AIDS. The musical number shows Diana visiting a treatment facility during the height of the AIDS epidemic. It’s a powerful moment in the show, it really grabs at your heart.
Sadly we need some help from the ladies in waiting.
It needs an audience. The show was filmed during the pandemic, without an audience, and it shows. Some of the jokes fall flat. The big musical numbers just end in silence. It’s obvious that somethings missing, an audience
The pacing. I get that we have over 15 years of history. And about 2 hours to tell it. But some moments felt rushed. For example when the show begins, she’s already met Charles. That would have been something to see musicalized. There’s more material that could be added, particularly learning more about Diana and Charles, both individually and as a couple. I also think the queen is underused, she could have used some more scenes. Surprisingly, Act 2 is paced much better and gets a lot more story across.
It does get a little soap opera-y. That could be the direction and writing. However the performances make up for it.
I’m considering this a preview performance. This is not the final version of the show. When the show begins performances it will still be in previews until December. I understand what they are trying to do with this. But technically the show is still not “finished”. So why are we filming it now? I personally would have waited until the show opened. Or at least the end of previews.
My opinion of Diana: The Musical? It needs some work here and there but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It has good music, great performances and creative sets and costumes. If you are a fan of the royals or a good splashy musical. Then I highly recommend YOU SEE IT LIVE! If you can’t, Netflix will do. But keep in mind when streaming, it’s not the finished product.
Now what do I think Diana would have thought of this? Diana was a big theatre lover. A lot of people forget that. I think she would have been very flattered.
Diana: The Musical is currently streaming on Netflix.
The show returns to Broadway in November 2021 at the Longacre Theatre