By Tulis McCall
I do not know what all the fuss is about. From the reviews posted the day after Diana, The Musical opened, you would have thought that someone had been dismembered and the innards spread all over the stage. Honestly! What IS the big deal here?
Diana, The Musical is simply not that bad. I have seen worse, and you, dear reader, have read those reviews.
I have also seen much, much better. I have seen theatre that makes me forget who and where I am. I have seen theatre that makes me want to go out in the street yell the good news from the rooftops. I have seen theatre that reminds me why the stage exists in the first place.
Diana, The Musical did none of that. It also did not offend me theatrically, morally or otherwise. As a matter of fact it did nothing for or to me.
The one thing that it did do was bring Diana’s sartorial transformation to life once again. Having been deprived of Diana for the past 24 years (yep, 24) I had forgotten what a visual jolt she was. Beginning with the sweaters she wore while she was a kindergarten teacher. The blue suit on Engagement Day. The green and white maternity outfit. The wedding dress that almost ate her alive. The blue velvet gown she wore at the White House the night she danced with John Travolta. The red jacket she wore sitting solo in front of the Taj Mahal. The snappy black cocktail dress after Charles’ appearance on television in response to her book Diana: Her True Story that blew the lid off the Royal Family’s facade. And of course, the white dress she wore to the opera on the night that New Yorkers were all dressed in their very best black. She was a smart cookie.
That is the story. Her fashion sense that commanded the world’s attention. Diana revealed herself through her clothing. Her very soft voice was hardly needed because her clothes spoke so clearly. One enormous quibble with this production is that this Diana (Jeanna de Waal) has bronzed vocal chords that carry her unimpressive songs (and she sings most of them) up to the rafters. A break with reality I would say.
Which is what most of this musical is, a break with reality. Which is why it is a musical and not a play. Which explains nothing.
Why this musical exists and why anyone would want to go see it remains a mystery. But theatre is like that. Ideas come from who knows where and most of them do not make it to the drawing board, never mind the actual stage. This one has had a journey of over five years, a pandemic set back, a film version produced on Netflix, and still it made it to the Longacre Theatre.
In short, it persisted.
Let us all lower our critics’ knives, lest we injure ourselves, and let us leave Diana,The Musical to its own devices. Wicked opened to terrible reviews, and nearly 20 years later it is still chugging along. Go figure.
Let the audiences decide. Just the way the public did when Diana was among us in the flesh.
Diana, The Musical – Book and Lyrics by Joe DiPietro. Music and Lyrics by David Bryan. Directed by Christopher Ashley. Music Arrangements and Supervision by Ian Eisendrath, Choreography by Kelly Devine, Costumes by William Ivey Long
Diana, The Musical stars Jeanna de Waal as Diana, Roe Hartrampf as Prince Charles, Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles and Judy Kaye as Queen Elizabeth.
The complete cast of Diana, The Musical includes Zach Adkins, Ashley Andrews, Austen Danielle Bohmer, Holly Ann Butler, Richard Gatta, Alex Hairston, Lauren E.J. Hamilton, Shaye B. Hopkins, André Jordan, Gareth Keegan, Libby Lloyd, Nathan Lucrezio, Tomás Matos, Chris Medlin, Anthony Murphy, Kristen Faith Oei, Laura Stracko, Bethany Ann Tesarck and Michael Williams.