Arts & Entertainment | November 18, 2021 12:04 pm

The Reviews of “Diana: The Musical” Are In, And They’re as Merciless as You’d Expect

The Broadway musical about Princess Diana is being called "the flop of the year"

Jeanna de Waal stars as Princess Diana in "Diana: The Musical."
Jeanna de Waal stars as Princess Diana in "Diana: The Musical."

Diana: The Musical has made its Broadway debut after premiering on Netflix, and you probably won’t be too shocked to learn that the campy musical about Princess Diana’s tragic marriage and untimely death is drawing abysmal reviews. The New York Post calls it “the flop of the year,” and the general critical consensus seems to be that it’s an embarrassing disaster that should have never been made in the first place.

At the very least, the show — which stars Jeanna de Waal as Diana, Roe Hartrampf as Prince Charles, Erin Davie as Camilla Parker Bowles and Judy Kaye as Queen Elizabeth — has inspired some truly vicious panning by theater critics. Let’s review a sampling below, shall we?

“The real problem is intrinsic, arising from the choice to tell the story in song at all,” writes Jesse Green of The New York Times. “Musicals, like laws, are often compared to sausages: You don’t want to know what goes into them. In this case, you don’t want to know what comes out, either; if you care about Diana as a human being, or dignity as a concept, you will find this treatment of her life both aesthetically and morally mortifying.”

“Devoid of insight and ricocheting between dull vulgarity and vacuous hero worship, the show, which had its official opening Wednesday at the Longacre Theatre, is less edifying than a scroll through the archives of the tabloids,” Peter Marks of The Washington Post says. “The musical purports to ridicule them for hounding their prey, but in actuality matches them for exploitation.”

But if you’re hoping to at least get some laughs out of it, Greg Evans of Deadline is here to burst your bubble: “By now you’ve probably read, heard or seen for yourself, via Netflix, just how deliciously bad Diana is, but the truth isn’t quite so much fun. Diana, opening tonight on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre, is not a so-bad-it’s-good disaster. It’s just a regular, run-of-the-mill mess, a well-intended celebration of a beloved figure undone by one bad turn after another. More’s the pity.”

Adam Feldman of Time Out New York offers some cringeworthy examples of the show’s godawful lyrics: “The real Princess Di died in 1997 at the age of 36, and her story might be the stuff of opera,” he writes. “Instead, in defiance of the potential gravity of their subject, book writer Joe DiPietro and composer David Bryan — who share blame for the show’s lyrics — have opted for a campy, dishy pop-rock clip job of memorable moments from Diana’s life, rendered in a stream of ploddingly banal rhyming couplets set to tunes that sometimes assume a vaguely 1980s accent. (Don’t think New Wave; think Starship and Sheena Easton.) When the lyrics stray from the generic, it is often for the worse. ‘Wasn’t I the most beautiful bride? A glittering jewel right by his side,’ sings Diana when she begins to wise up. ‘Serves me right for marrying a Scorpio.’ This may have been one of the half-dozen times when a gentleman in back of me at the theater uttered a sassy ‘Period!’ in response to a line onstage.”

Observer‘s David Cote goes so far as to suggest that de Waal should consider never showing her face again in the U.K. after her portrayal of Diana. “I’m ignorant as to whether or not Jeanna de Waal intends to live in the States, the German-born yet English-raised actress who stars in Diana: The Musical, but she may want to weigh options,” he writes. “If any of her countrymen catch her in this tedious tuner about the trials of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, she could be denied reentry. Actually, too late! Last year during lockdown, this platonic ideal of a Broadway faceplant did an onstage video capture for Netflix. The tacky, bewildering result is there for all to stream, very useful for reviewers who suffered dissociative amnesia during the live event.”

Ultimately, it seems, the main question remains how anyone could have possibly thought this was a good idea. How could a story that includes Diana struggling with bulimia and self-harm, visiting AIDS patients and suffering through a bad marriage possibly fit tonally with over-the-top Broadway lines like “I just got a ticket to the main event! It’s a Thrilla in Manila but with Diana and Camilla!” — something actually uttered in Diana: The Musical? The good news is, you don’t need to waste money on a ticket if you’re curious about witnessing this trainwreck; it’s currently streaming on Netflix.