Diana: The Musical
Cast: Jeanna de Waal Roe Hartrampf, Erin Davie
Directed by Christopher Ashley
The stage show Diana: The Musical tells the tragic story of Diana Spencer through song and dance. Frankly, it’s an awkward way to present her short and sad life onstage.
If one has to put the story to music, it has to be an opera, or at least a musical that can equal the caliber of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita. Unfortunately, the tale of the late Diana is watered down and trivialized in this forgettable show that comes with songs that sound more suited to High School Musical. Doing this to Diana Spencer is like staging a Broadway-type musical based on Noli Me Tangere complete with a chorus line of ilustrados dancing like the Rockettes. Oh wait, a musical of that kind was indeed staged decades ago at Tanghalang Pilipino.
So who is to stop composer David Bryan from writing unmemorable music for Diana: The Musical? And who’s to prevent Joe DiPietro from penning the silly book and lyrics? Here’s a sample of a song they wrote for a scene that has Prince Charles proposing to Diana:
“I could get down on one knee
And do it properly
And ask you to marry me.”
Really now, even a fourth grader could write better poetry. The other elements of the production, which was filmed during a live performance in a theater, were also wanting. The staging is unimaginative and the sets are devoid of any majesty. They even tried to recreate the famous surprise dance performance of the princess at the Royal Opera House in 1985. But the surprise here is they couldn’t make that occasion a memorable part of this musical.
Also, Diana Spencer was all about style, and this show barely has any.
The players are talented but they lack the charisma of the people they portray. Jeanna de Waal, who plays the title role, has a pretty singing voice but she looks less like Diana and more like Hillary Clinton. She imparts a strong woman as opposed to the fragile princess she plays. So steely and self-assured is Ms. De Waal’s depiction, she ought to be cast in a show with a title like Thatcher: the Musical.
There is nothing royal in Roe Hartrampf’s portrayal of Prince Charles. He sings well but he’d do better playing the sidekick or the best friend of a leading man.
As Camilla Parker Bowles, a major character in this show, Erin Davie is well cast. She comes off as bland, which makes her perfect for the role.
Filipino viewers will be amused to hear the chorus sing, ‘It’s the Thrilla in Manila between Diana and Camilla’
There are moments when the musical comes alive, but viewers will have to wait for the second act for that. The song Diana sings with the AIDS patients is charming and sweet, though it also trivializes that momentous event. The confrontation between Camilla Parker Bowles and Diana is a welcome respite from the monotonous numbers. The lyrics are bitchy and catty, and Filipino viewers will be amused to hear the chorus sing, “It’s the Thrilla in Manila between Diana and Camilla.”
Audiences will also be nudged from their slumber when Diana and her butler (played by Bruce Dow) sing “The Dress.” It’s about the sexy outfit Diana wears to upstage Prince Charles’s televised interview. Perhaps in desperation, the writers used the F-word several times (“That effing dress!”) in this song to keep viewers awake.
But it goes downhill from there as the show steadily runs out of steam. We all know what the denouement is, but the writers just don’t have what it takes to concoct a heartbreaking finale. The last song they write for the heroine is listless, and the leading lady doesn’t sing it as if there was no tomorrow.
After all, Diana’s tomorrows were, at that point in the show, already numbered. Consequently, this musical fails to make an impact at all.
Diana: The Musical is streaming on Netflix.