Netflix‘s Diana: The Musical is what happens when a global pandemic inadvertently causes the world to forget what good musicals really look like. It’s the kind of circus sideshow, lit in jewel tones with dozens of background dancers flailing flamboyantly to cringe-worthy lyrics about sex, bulimia, and rock-and-roll that your conservative uncle in the Midwest believes graces every Broadway stage. It’s a glorious trainwreck, fueled by the familiar royal drama that veers off track anytime it chooses fiction over fact.
It is, in a word, a mess.
But, like Marie Kondo, messes often spark joy for me, which is why I volunteered to bear witness to this musical monstrosity.
Filmed in an empty theater (another consequence of Covid), the show charts Princess Diana’s rise to popularity, her ascension to the ranks of royalty, and all the pain, trauma, and heartbreak that comes with it. There’s nothing new hidden within the Rock of Ages-like melodies, though perhaps you will come away with a healthy distaste for ’80s pop ballads. Diana’s story is so well known at this point that the show and its actors — all of whom perform admirably given the material they’re working with — have to rely on fictitious blow-ups and fantasized interactions between main characters.
For instance, Charles and Diana’s first date to the opera ends with her crowd surfing to a song that touts Elton John and the Pet Shop Boys as hopeful musical influences on her boring, older beau. Charles prefers celebrated cellists; she wants him to get down to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It should’ve been the first red flag of their relationship.
Things only get more outrageous as the musical wanes on — from paparazzo vultures comparing stalking the princess to the downing of pints of Guinness and the joy of a good wank to a lyrical showdown at a dinner party thrown by Charles’ mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, to an entire burlesque routine that introduces Diana’s sidepiece, James Hewitt.
And look, you could experience the whole thing yourself, but I’m betting you just finished watching Squid Game and… really? Do you need to torture yourself further? Whether the masochistic curiosity wins out or not, please, prepare yourself before entering the theatrical arena. Your love of musicals may still die, but your spirit doesn’t have to. Here’s every thought you might have while watching Diana: The Musical.
You’ve been warned.
Despite an empty theater giving production more time to perfect how this show is filmed, you’ll still suffer through shaky cam footage that calls back to the ’90s handheld recordings that your dad once loved. Try not to be too alarmed.
Jeanna de Waal, while a lovely, accomplished actress and singer, is a grown woman. She is introduced first as a teenaged Diana. She’s sporting the Hillary Clinton haircut, post-Bill’s public affair. That’s the cut of a woman who’s seen things, not a naïve 19-year-old girl.
Perhaps the only thing this musical has in common with every other royal re-telling: they’ve made Prince Charles entirely too handsome.
On more than one occasion, Charles calls his mother “mummy.” Will the most unbelievable part of this whole show be the idea that Queen Elizabeth lets her son be that familiar with her in private? Stay tuned.
A whole song dedicated to Charles’ love of a particular cellist feels the most on-brand.
“He’s only happy when he hears music by dead white men.” Okay, this number is starting to win us over.
Why yes, this is exactly what Hell looks like.
Of course, Diana is a fan of Dame Barbara Cartland – who isn’t? But blaming her unrealistic expectations of love on Cartland’s romance novels is skirting dangerously close to historical romance vilification. We won’t have it.
“Charles is a jealous b*tch” — pretty much every song theme after the wedding.
There’s a song titled “Te amo, Te quiero.” So… Diana speaks Spanish now.
Olivia Rodrigo’s sour clearly had an influence on some of these angsty break-up songs.
There’s horny, and then there’s whatever the person writing this number was going through.
Diana the Musical is pure art and that is all I have to say on the matter. pic.twitter.com/6BA0o7YCpC
— Olivia Laydon (@OliviaLaydon) October 2, 2021
James Hewitt is a ginger-haired himbo, pass it on.
The fantasy that Diana had a gay footman who picked out increasingly revealing dresses for her to stick it to Charles in the press is… not an unwelcome one at this point.
Diana and Camilla duking it out at a dinner party might be the most nauseating number but this viewer has a point:
seen a lot of discourse about Diana: The Musical but none about what is arguably the greatest line in the entire show pic.twitter.com/M2ShXvWh0c
— Reagan (@reaganzog) October 2, 2021
Yes, that is one way to reference the AIDS epidemic in your musical.
The moral of Diana: The Musical is… certainly a statement that someone has now said.
everyone is missing the best part of the princess diana musical: the final scene. pic.twitter.com/s8TmJObriz
— liv (@livielivoflivs) October 5, 2021
‘Diana: The Musical’ is currently streaming on Netflix.