Fans of the British Royal Family, beware: there is a Broadway musical about the life of Princess Diana, but if you want to see it, you may want to buy a ticket soon, because the show probably won’t last long.
Diana: A True Musical Story tells the story of Princess Diana’s glamorous yet tragic life, starting when she met her future husband (and then ex-husband) Prince Charles, through her ascent to the royal throne, and her eventual star-turn as the darling of the paparazzi, which of course also led to her untimely death. And there is some drama with “the other woman,” the woman that her husband truly loved, that damned Camilla Parker Bowles.
Princess Diana’s life story is modern-day legend—her wedding! her gowns! her dance with John Travolta!—and it should be the perfect tale for a lovely, romantic musical, filled with beautiful music and epic drama. But sadly, this Broadway musical falls flat.
If we’re going to pick apart this show, where to begin? Perhaps the first scene, when a group of hip-hop dancers dressed as evil paparazzi, wearing trenchcoats and hats, bounces around the stage while singing a song about how they’re going to ruin Diana’s life. Because if there’s one style of dancing that comes to mind when thinking about Princess Diana, it’s hip-hop?…no.
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Then Princess Diana comes to the stage and proceeds to sing, her voice bouncing off the ceiling like she is auditioning for American Idol. The real-life Princess Diana was ethereal, and glamorous, and her voice has a breathy quality as if she spoke in almost a whisper. But this smiling actress in a blond wig, who has a perfectly pleasant voice, is not portraying Princess Diana.
There are some good moments of the show, mostly in Act II, which is around the time that Diana confronts Prince Charles for continuing his relationship with his original girlfriend, Camilla. Diana has an emotional breakdown, so the loud singing is appropriate at this point in the show. These are the songs that will end up being played on the SiriusXM Broadway channel, and they are beautiful, but a few catchy songs can’t rescue an entire musical.
The rest of the show is a frenetic, jumbled mess, as people run (literally, run) around the stage, trying to cram in as many details as possible about Princess Diana’s life—in the span of one song, she gives birth to both Prince William and then Prince Harry, pop pop go the babies—leading up to that final scene, which of course everybody knows is coming. Plot spoiler: she dies. But that scene is a non-event, as it isn’t shown on stage, and instead a voice merely announces it like it is a report on the news, and then Diana just walks of the stage! The end. If they didn’t want to show how the paparazzi chased her car into a wall, which was the car crash that ended her life—one of the biggest news stories of our lifetime—then why did the show have a bunch of photographers performing evil “we’re gonna get you Diana!” songs while hip-hop dancing? It’s all so weird.
Princess Diana was adored by the public. This could have easily been a schmaltzy musical filled with gorgeous ballads, sung by a lovely, lilting ingenue, who floated around the stage while wearing devastating gowns, and audiences would have eated it up like a big, sweet dessert trifle. It would have been an enormous hit. But this show does not do that. Diana the Musical is just some people on a stage, wearing wigs and singing some decent songs, while telling the facts of Princess Diana’s life like it was a PowerPoint presentation. And do we need to mention again, those evil hip-hop dancing photographers?