Diana: The Musical

Lady Di’s fans are flocking to this Broadway show, and I think their reaction says a lot about them.

By Andrew Andrews

Diana: The Musical sets the story of the Princess of Wales to music at the Longacre Theatre in Manhattan. Original photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The story of Diana Spencer’s short but eventful life has been a worldwide favorite since her appearance in the early 1980s as the wife-to-be of Charles, heir to the British throne.

It’s something of a surprise, then, that it’s taken this long for the not-quite-fairy-tale life of “the most photographed woman in the world” to reach the stages of Broadway.

With more than two dozen songs spread across two acts, and enough costume changes to make a runway model’s head spin, Diana: The Musical bring Di’s story to the Great White Way with all of the flash and fashion that was a hallmark of her public life.

Judy Kaye as Queen Elizabeth, Jeanna de Waal as Princess Diana, Roe Hartrampf as Prince Charles and Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles. Original photo by Matthew Murphy.

Diana: The Musical’s twenty-seven numbers leave little space for dramatic dialogue, and even its most serious conversations are kept simple and flowing, often reduced to derisively funny one-liners. The script reads more like a history lesson than a biography, stating the facts of Diana’s life in a way that somehow manages to feel fast-paced and slow-moving at the same time.

The songs are somewhat catchy in their repetition, but with lyrics that might have been written by a team of fifteen-year-old girls as a project for their high school drama class: full of sophomoric rhyming and chains of clichés. The accompanying score is unoriginal, dipping its feet into the popular music of the time but never fully diving-in.

The seats of the Longacre Theatre are narrow as a pencil skirt, and although the person next to me wasn’t very big, they nonetheless oozed into my personal space with every opportunity. Had I been sandwiched between the two larger, chatty Midwestern tourists behind me, I doubt I would have stayed for the second act. Adding to the discomfort: a blasting air conditioner that seemed mistakenly set for an August heat wave. If you attend, I suggest that you keep your coat on.

As much a historical fashion show as it is a performance, Diana feels like it was developed by writers at the National Enquirer for their target demographic. If you’re a fan of the tabloid (and especially if you loved reading about the princess in its pages during her lifetime), I bet you’ll consider this production the perfect musical.

To provide full disclosure to more sophisticated audiences, I propose it be retitled after a different series of publications: Diana: Broadway for Dummies.

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Andrew Andrews attended Diana: The Musical at Longacre Theatre in Manhattan on Monday, November 15, 2021 @ 8:00pm to write this review.