Diana (2021)

dir. Christopher Ashley

One of humanity’s greatest failures is that we live in a world where at least two musicals based on Princess Diana exist. This latest imagining manages to make Karen Sokolof Javitch’s terrible amateur theatre production seem somehow more bearable. Because that one had no budget. What this one’s excuse? Judging by the elaborate set and the Netflix release of the filmed version, Diana had enough money to actually work out in some way. Yet the staging is utterly flat (it is difficult to count the number of times members of the chorus are spotted standing lifelessly in the background), the songs are so bad as to be a downright insult to music, and the story beats are woefully twee. Barbara Cartland is featured more heavily than there is any reason for. And in its giddy rush to pay the deceased Princess Diana her due respect, Diana forgets to give her character any actual, well, character. Instead, she’s an innocent, angelic, pure and sweet soul, wronged by the world and incapable of nuance. She sings all about how she’s going to wear a dress to get her revenge, as though this stark showboating is the absolute peak of who she is at her core. It’s hard to imagine those who knew Diana best being impressed by either of the musicals based on her life, but the tragic truth is, the underfunded amateur production probably has the edge on quality.

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