Diana The Musical - Netflix Streaming Review
Diana is a new biopic musical which centres around the life of Princess Diana, the late Duchess of Wales. After being released on Netflix last month, the show and various clips from it have gone viral online and as such there is a lot of conversation about it and how it came to be. Though many have called it wacky and dismissed the show before it has even had the opportunity to have a complete run on Broadway, others have celebrated it, dubbing it a cult classic.
The show was written a few years ago and first shown at the University of California’s La Jolia Playhouse Theatre. The show was only supposed to run for a month but the production team repeatedly extended the showings, resulting in a 7 week run and from the offset the show was surrounded with intrigue and curiosity. A year after the first production, Diana opened on Broadway at the Du Longe Theatre, where the cast performed a select number of previews prior to the closure of all theatres due to COVID in 2020. Therefore, the show never truly ‘opened’ on Broadway as it only ever was shown as a preview and within this stage was still undergoing changes and tweaks.
During the lockdown, producer Frank Marshall decided that Diana could potentially be a profitable show if filmed. Around this time, Hamilton had also announced that they would be doing a pro-shot release of the stage musical so there was already a great interest amidst the theatre community about recordings of their favourite shows in a theatre. The cast of Diana filmed their production over a period of 4 days in August and the film was released in October 2021. Despite comments about the show itself, this was an achievement as there has never been a show filmed professionally which never properly debuted on Broadway; the cast were given a major opportunity with this filming as it would be a chance for them to show the world their show for the first time on one of the major streaming platforms, immortalising it forever.
When reviewing the show itself, the first thing that comes to mind immediately are the unfortunate lyrics. Many have called them tragic and ridiculous given the high profile individual whom the show is about. There are particular lines which seem very out of touch and ill fitted: ‘That's what happens when you marry a Scorpio’ and ‘Better than a guinness, better than a wank’ in particular seem very obtuse when considering they are being said by a member of the royal family. Whilst the overall campiness and cheesiness is typical to what you would expect from a musical, it does at times feel a bit jarring; the show relies on the audience leaving behind a lot of what they know about the attitude of the royal family and the way in which they carry themselves. The music itself has a very generic 90s and 2000s pop sound but the group numbers are grand and enjoyable albeit nothing particularly groundbreaking. The score does at times feel repetitive and bland but the melodies are easy to understand and repeat.
Whilst it may be about Diana, the musical is by no means an accurate representation of her life. The show makes an attempt to ‘Disney-fy’ her life with tongue-in-cheek humour and over the top acting and as such does remove a lot of the complexity and dimension of the real life person who it is about. The musical very much explores a particular version of Diana; honing in on her supposed ordinariness. The Diana/Camilla showdown also is very reductive; it renders the two women mere archetypes rather than real people. Elements of the show also appear tone deaf and out of touch-the discussions about Diana’s relationship with the press in particular are very disconnected from the reality of how badly she was treated. Perhaps if the musical framed itself as satire rather than trying to appear deep and serious, the comedy would have landed better and had greater impact. The number of British references is a bit strange-it does appear that at times the writers were trying too hard to appear to know about England and British pop culture.
There is an endearing quality about the madness of the show; its over the top spectacle nature does give it a likeability and in a sense it does make the steely individuals whom it portrays appear more human and relatable. Princess Diana has long been a figure of public adoration; dubbed the ‘Peoples Princess’ it does make sense that there have been so many films, television programmes and portrayals of her in the media. The production team also has to be given credit as the costumes, hair and makeup are very fun. The cast, Jeanna in particular, are very talented, it is just a shame that they are working with such bizarre material.
DIANA The Musical is now available to stream on Netflix.
Image credit - Evan Zimmerman and Matthew Murphy