One would be hard pressed to find a contemporary musical that’s more engaging than Diana The Musical. This is written without a trace of irony. Twenty-four years after her shocking death in a Paris tunnel, she remains a fascinating, beloved, and celebrated figure. Look no further than The Crown, or to the new film Spencer starring Kristin Stewart in the title role. There’s also a wide catalog of documentaries sure to satisfy bonafide Anglophiles.
Now, Joe DiPietro (book writer and lyricist) and David Bryan (composer and lyricist) have set melody to the Monarchy with their own spin on the derailed fairy tale—and it’s so much more engaging than one might imagine.
But wait…. didn’t Netflix release a film of this same stage version a month before it reopened on Broadway? Wasn’t it met with reviews rivaling the savagery of 2019’s Cats musical? Weren’t critics ready to rip hell into this production too?
The answer to all? Yes!
Why? It seems that the overall problem was—and still is—inconsistency. Although it is well researched and many of the events are factual, the musical’s lyrics and dialogue switch unintentionally between sincerity and camp. Consequently, it has a hard time finding its tone. Then again, so did the actual Diana, Princess of Wales. We still adored her, didn’t we?
Jeanna De Waal is positively stunning as the seemingly meek Kindergarten helper turned savvy media darling. De Waal delivers a thrilling, mesmerizing performance with plenty of opportunities for her glorious voice to shine.
Roe Hartrampf and Erin Davie as Prince Charles and Camilla (respectively) add a hefty dose of antagonism. Broadway favorite (and Tony winner) Judy Kaye as the Queen brings assuredness and stoicism to the proceedings. Her touching ballad, “An Officer’s Wife” is infused with warmth and reflective introspection about her truly unique role in the world. In a dual role as romance novelist Barbara Cartland, she offers some kooky, Dame Edna energy.
Bryan is no newbie to musical stage composition. He took home the Tony Award for best score in 2010 for Memphis and wrote the infectious score for the Off-Broadway hit comedy, The Toxic Avenger. As a founding member of Bon Jovi, his influence there gives Diana a well suited, catchy eighties rock pulse.
David Zinn’s beautiful set is opulent and lighting designer Natasha Katz floods the stage with stylish hues of pink and blue.
William Ivey Long’s costumes are the real stand-out here. So much in fact that a sexy, revenge-laden dress gets an entire song. One by one, each outfit is met with raves and applause.
Let’s be absolutely clear: This is not high-brow Broadway material. Still, director Christopher Ashley manages to bring dignity and humanity to the people’s princess. Walk into this show scrutinizing every detail and you’re sure to be dissatisfied. Walk in seeking escapism and frivolity and you’re in for a delicious night.
Diana The Musical is now playing at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre (West 48th between Broadway and 8th). For tickets and information, click here.