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6 Oct, 2021 09:00

Netflix's ‘Diana: The Musical’ is a dated, dead-on-arrival and insultingly disastrous new low in the story of the tragic princess

Netflix's ‘Diana: The Musical’ is a dated, dead-on-arrival and insultingly disastrous new low in the story of the tragic princess

The story of the young nursery nurse who rose to become the most loved woman in the world before being hounded to her death is normally portrayed as a fairytale gone wrong, but now it’s a horror show musical for the masses.

Bad taste knows no bounds and that is just as well for Netflix, whose ‘Diana: The Musicalis a new low in the myth-propagating industry that has been working round the clock ever since Lady Diana Spencer caught the eye of the man who was dating her older sister. 

A satire-free, gag-inducing hybrid between dated rock opera, the streaming service’s super successful The Crown and nauseating sentimality D:TM is an hour and 57 minutes of aural assault, crimes against fashion and hair, and a horror show re-telling of a tragic, yet distinctly unpleasant chapter in the modern history of the British royal family. 

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Diana, portrayed by Jeanna de Waal is more Ellen Degeneres crossed with Hilary Clinton than the demure nursery assistant who went on to marry Prince Charles, bore him an heir and a spare, ran around town with a variety of eligible bachelors and died in a car accident after being chased by paparazzi through Paris in the early hours of August 31,1997. 

That point was the true birth of the Diana industry. Not that the poor woman hadn’t already been the subject of the most intense media and public scrutiny before but, at least while she was alive, the princess exerted some control over the chaos that surrounded her life and loves. The focus also shifted between herself, her estranged husband and the cast of characters that surrounded them. Instead of her story ending that night in a Parisian tunnel, it continued its breakneck rampage, careered down a hill, brakelines cut and over a cliff in one of the most sensational car crashes the world has seen. 

Now, the latest succubi to draw blood from remains of this historical tragedy – with which a certain demographic of the American public are obsessed – are two Broadway stalwarts: Bon Jovi keyboard player David Bryan and Tony-award winning playwright Joe Dipietro, author of his own book on the life of Diana.

The result of this ill-starred union is truly, hang on, there’s a word for it. Abominable.  

It’s a Frankenstein monster of a musical, welding a fashion show of Diana’s legendary wardrobe choices onto pantomime portrayals of the Windsors and expressed in lyrics that torture the bejesus out of the English language. It’s ‘The Crown’ set to Bon Jovi tracks that were never good enough to make it onto any of their three live albums, 15 studio albums, 14 video albums or five compilations. It’s. That. Bad.

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Lyrical highlights? Well, where to begin. Diana cooing over the crib holding her newly born second child: “Harry my ginger haired son, you’ll always be second to none” is a good start. Meanwhile, Judy Kaye who plays both the Queen and romance author Barbara Cartland, with a costume change pretty much the only difference, screeches about being an ‘orrrrficer’s wife’ while Bruce Dow, as Diana’s flunky, Paul Burrell, is portrayed as the brains behind the princess’s decision to choose a little black number for a night on the town as if it was on a par with the decision to tear down the Berlin Wall. 

This is cliche piled upon cliche and then dusted with a fine powder of cliche. Guff, fit only for consumption by the most idiotic of audiences. The sort of people who stand in the rain all night to cheer and wave at actors who dance and sing their way from paycheque to paycheque in the name of the performing arts. 

It would be disingenuous of me not to admit that D:TM didn’t hit a chord. Realising that the princess died more than 30 years ago, and that I too spent far too long working on tabloid newspapers that made millions of pounds by exploiting the poor woman, it was depressing to be reminded of this as even now, decades later, others are still doing the same thing.

Flashbulbs pop as the trench-coated paparazzi stalk the princess on stage singing, “We provide a public service/ We do it every day/ And if you think we’re vultures/ We dare you, look away.” Unfortunately, this is not some dramatic moment of self-realisation where Bryan and Dipietro understand that they are simply breathing life back into a tragedy in order to make money off the back of a dead mum-of-two. 

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No, it just rhymes. Nothing more.

One can’t help but wonder what that aforementioned ‘ginger haired son’ makes of this insult to both art and his mother’s memory? But I doubt he’ll be as talkative about any qualms he has with ‘Diana: The Musical’ as he has been about other problems recently. How much was that Netflix deal worth again, Your Royal Highness?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.