Diana: The Musical transports the viewer straight to the Broadway stage. It brings with it that nostalgic feeling of seeing a great show for the very first time. I may not have discovered many bangers, but the soundtrack here is delightful, as is the attention to detail in depicting Princess Diana’s tale. At the forefront comes themes of being “underestimated,” which is subsequently the title of the explosive opening number. For anyone who has ever been counted out, felt trapped, or like an outsider, this is the musical for you!
After the opening, we get a glimpse into the life of 32-year-old Prince Charles (Roe Hartrampf), who is facing mounting pressures from his mother to snag a bride and give her an heir to the British crown. At first, Charles seems charming and sweet enough. However, the first red flag for me comes as he spends time with his mistress, while literally making a call for plans to attend the opera with Diana (Jeanna de Waal). You have to be a real scumbag to knowingly begin a courtship when you already have someone else on the side. The opera is a terribly boring affair for Diana, made brighter and more extravagant as she daydreams about this union’s rife possibilities. An ominous future takes shape via Diana’s first encounter with the ravenous paparazzi as they “snap, click” without care. They insist to her that dealing with these vultures is merely “part of the deal.”
Diana becomes an overnight sensation after Charles proposes to her—her kind and humble spirit wins over the hearts of people around the world. As Diana’s star rises, Charles grows jealous of all the attention she receives. “Should I hold her handbag?” he grunts at one point. It is not until Diana becomes pregnant with baby William that Charles first says he loves her. Dealing with neglect and postpartum depression, Diana belts out the beautiful “Simply Breathe.” When Charles tells her, “all you’ve ever done is marry me,” I literally wanted to slap him.
Growing up, my mother had an obsession with Princess Diana. She told me that at the time, it was the hottest news story, and Diana’s tragedy is certainly one for the ages. However, what made her such an alluring public figure is the way in which she used her celebrity to tackle causes without concern for how it would reflect back on the stuffy and conservative royal family. While several of the musical numbers are campy and fun, as Diana puts her weight behind the AIDS epidemic, deep sadness and understanding looms large. I was annoyed that the hospital was so insistent on Diana wearing gloves to be around these sickly men; she offers up her hands to them and shuns the gloves, a woman of the people.
Diana is filmed in an interesting way. The use of close-ups gives us a window into the performances we would have definitely missed onstage even from the front row, while the staging is sure to highlight (and show off!) the stunning costumes and choreography. As her story culminates on a touching note of poignancy, Diana comes full circle in a beautiful way. I have seen several filmed musicals, and Diana: The Musical is honestly one of the best. One note of remembrance: “revenge looks best in a feck you dress!”
Diana: The Musical is currently available to stream on Netflix.