Princess Diana’s life is set to be retold, yet again, in an American musical which will premiere on Netflix.
Nearly 23 years after her death, Princess Diana continues to be a public figure shrouded by intense fascination. Her story has been unpicked, opened out and examined again and again, retold through the medium of film, TV, books, exhibitions – almost every which way you could think of.
There’s almost only one art form that has so far been untapped to narrate the life of the world’s most famous princess – a musical. But we can now add that to the list as an American production called Diana will be hitting our screens, forgoing the usual on stage premiere.
It’s a history making move, prompted by the coronavirus pandemic which has meant closure for theatres around the world. Although Diana was originally set to open on Broadway on 31 March 2020, it will now be filmed without an audience in Longacre Theatre in New York with the original cast and shown on Netflix instead.
The show still plans to open on Broadway eventually, with May 2021 pencilled in for now. There’s currently no date for its Netflix debut.
The producers of Diana said in a joint statement: “We speak for the entire company when we say that we couldn’t be more excited to finally be able share our show with theater lovers everywhere. Though there is no substitute for the live theater, we are honored to be a part of the quality entertainment that Netflix provides its subscribers worldwide.”
As well as exploring her relationship with Charles and the rest of the royals (the musical features his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and some of the fallout from that), it focuses on a lot of her incredible achievements, such as being one of the only famous people to address the AIDS crisis publicly. It also shows the deep connections she made with those suffering.
Although the production is American, not all of the actors are, with English actor Jeanna de Waal playing the titular role (also seen on Broadway in American Idiot and Kinky Boots). Playing Charles is Roe Hartrampf, while Erin Davie plays Parker Bowles and Tony Award winner Judy Kaye plays the Queen. In the director’s seat is Come From Away Tony Award winner Christopher Ashley, with a score from Bon Jovi’s David Bryan. So impressive names all round, then.
Initial reviews note the sinister undertone of a musical with such a tragic subject matter and ending, referencing the need for further work to be done to iron out some of the more off-key moments, but they say it has potential. For example, The Hollywood Reporter writes: “Despite its flaws — and there are many that need to be worked out before this show goes any further — there is an earnestness about Diana.”
Do we really need another dramatisation of Diana’s life? Probably not. But as a theatre production first, we’re certainly interested in seeing how the team behind Diana rework her story for the stage.
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