Diana, the musical, was set to open on Broadway in late March 2020 but like almost everything in the whole world that month and beyond, it was postponed due to COVID.
The world as a whole is still obsessed with Princess Diana nearly 25 years after her death. I’m not immune to her story myself. I was a kid when she died, but I remember her as beautiful and glamourous, the very embodiment of how princesses have always been described. But despite constant media scrutiny, she remains a bit of a mystery. If she were alive today, I’m positive she’d have a very active Instagram account, but at the time her only option was to leak small nuggets anonymously to the press – the very same press that gleefully tore her to shreds. All this to say: if you tell me there’s a musical about the People’s Princess, I’ve got instant tiara fever. But after watching this, I’m desperate for the vaccine.
Diana is abysmal. Just the shoddiest, jankiest, most beastly piece of theatre that’s ever existed, and I’m including Cats in this assessment. Every single thing about this is trashy and desperate. The music and lyrics, by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, are laughably bad. These two Jersey boys (one of whom is the keyboard player for Bon Jovi) have assembled every problematic British expression and cliché their two bird brains could think of, and then fabricated songs MAD-LIBS style. The result is cringey. I have a box of salt in my pantry with more sense than these two. My ears were offended. They make Prince Charles, famous for having fantasized about being a tampon to get, erm, closer to Camilla, look like a poet by comparison.
And it’s not just the songs. Although: if you’re a musical with ghastly songs, you’re pretty fecking useless, aren’t you? But it’s not just the songs. The tone is always wrong. By chance alone you’d think it would accidentally stumble toward right about half the time, but no, it plods along, getting it wrong each and every time. The casting’s wrong too; the actors probably aren’t bad, but they’re so woefully miscast that it doesn’t even matter. Jeanna de Waal, bless her heart, is no Princess Di. No shade, but even in the world’s poufiest wedding gown and carefully coifed blonde wig, she doesn’t hold a candle in the wind to the real Princess of Wales.
The staging’s uninspired, the costumes are more about quick changes than about iconic fashion, and I won’t even tell you what they rhyme with Camilla.
And don’t get me started on the ending that never was. Even with over 20 years worth of hindsight, these two ratbags don’t know how to end the musical. It ends so abruptly it feels as though the credits have simply wandered onto the stage, dazed and confused. But no, the credits are exactly where they belong; it’s the ending that’s MIA, TBD, BYOE.
Diana is pure trash, and not even juicy garbage like a guilty pleasure reality show, but honest to goodness wet, stinking garbage, as in that big can where someone should have dumped this steaming pile. Diana should have either gone dark and real, or funny and camp, but instead we get this bland, dated, inexcusable rot that would be an insult to her legacy if anyone could parse the silly lyrics or make sense of the drab costumes enough to figure out that this is meant to be Princess Diana, The Princess Diana, who even in death deserves far better than this.