"Diana: The Musical" fails to live up to its name

Oct. 17, 2021, 12:36 p.m. | By Kathereen Yang | 2 years, 4 months ago

Unlike Princess Diana, this musical is forgettable and contributes nothing to the world

"Diana: The Musical" manages to be drier than a history textbook, and viewers will have more fun reading Princess Diana's Wikipedia page. Released on Netflix on Oct. 1, the musical starts off with enough potential, simply due to what the musical is about. However, "Diana: The Musical" simply does not get better and can only be described using one word: unmemorable. 

The musical summarizes the life of Princess Diana (Jeanna de Waal), starting from her marriage to Prince Charles (Roe Hartrampf) until her death. Despite Diana's incredible amount of charity work, the musical chooses to spend most of its time focusing on her marriage with Charles. The musical begins with one of Diana's first meetings with Charles, then moves on to their marriage, the birth of their sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, and finally, to their many marital problems, most of which stem from Charles' affair with Duchess Camilla (Erin Davie). 

In real life, Diana had worked with numerous charities and organizations. She was the spokesperson for and patron of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation, and helped raise over $1 million for cancer research in a campaign. She also visited patients diagnosed with AIDS and patients diagnosed with leprosy to help dispel stigma around the diseases. She advocated against landmines and used her fame to bring much-needed attention to the issues caused by landmines. However, there are only a few scenes that have to do with Diana's charity work, all of them brief and none of them receiving the attention they deserve. The one exception is the scene in which Diana visits patients suffering from AIDS. But even then, the scene only shows the bare minimum: Diana enters the hospital, shakes hands with the patients, chats very briefly, and then leaves. More screen time is spent showing Diana's affair with James Hewitt (Gareth Keegan) than Diana's work with charity organizations.

Despite the amount of time the movie spends on Diana's marriage with Charles, their relationship lacks any semblance of nuance and is as bland as a stale crumpet. For the first half of the musical, their relationship is a cycle of Diana seeking approval, and sometimes love, from Charles while he continues his affair with Camilla. Charles and Camilla have an equally-dull relationship; their conversations never move beyond their professions of love for one another.

The first song, "Underestimated," is exactly what one would expect: Diana singing about how she has been underestimated. Although the lyrics aren't particularly horrible, there are still lines that don't fit. The lines "You never once stood out/Hardly passed a test," fit in with the song as much as Diana fits in with the rest of the royal family. The rest of the lyrics are more general statements about how the British royal family underestimates and treats Diana, such as "They minimize your thoughts/They maximize your flaws," so suddenly bringing in information about Diana's academic success is random and unnecessary. Additionally, the melody is flat and repetitive. 

In the last song of the musical, "If (Light The World)," Diana reflects on her divorce with Charles and her future plans. Despite the monotonous melody that better resembles a lecture than a song, the song is not completely horrible until the unnecessary and unexpected lines,"If Charles steps aside/And let my William reign/Then all this suffering/Will not have been in vain." Prince William has never appeared in this musical, other than during his birth, so it makes no sense to imply that "all this suffering" was all for the possibility of William becoming king. 

Although each of the actors sang their part well, the songs themselves are boring and unmemorable, and none of the melodies are catchy nor the lyrics meaningful. 

To be fair, not all of the songs are completely terrible. One of the first songs, "This Is How Your People Dance," does a decent job at showing how detached Charles is from Diana and the general public. "Whatever Love Means Anyway" has a slightly catchier melody and a clever reference to one of Charles' real-life quotes (when asked if he was in love with Diana, he had apparently replied with "Whatever 'in love' means"). 

Another thing that the musical does well is the scene in which Diana dies. The scene transitions suddenly from showing Diana’s hopes for her future to her death, reflecting the abruptness of Diana's real-life death. 

Beyond these glimmers of mediocrity, this musical adds nothing new. The musical makes no new insights and presents no new information about Diana's life. "Diana: The Musical" only repeats what has already been said, many times and in much better ways. 

"Diana: The Musical" is rated PG-13 for strong language and for suggestive and thematic material and is now available on Netflix

Last updated: Oct. 17, 2021, 12:37 p.m.

Tags: Movie Review Netflix Princess Diana

Kathereen Yang. hi! My name is Kathereen and I'm a junior writer. I enjoy reading and running, and I'm currently trying to figure out how to make pizza (without burning it). More »

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Dana — 2 years, 4 months ago

Sorry, but WHY did you expect to learn something new from a musical based on what Diana herself told in her late interviews?? It's her real life story - covered in music and (sometimes campy) lyrics. It's showing her being a normal human-being! What did you expect? Some kind of a fantasy-atory? Or a fairytale? Why isn't it enough for you, just to tell her true story?? I think they did a great job, covering her whole marriage with It's ups and downs!! It's enjoyable, fun and touching at the right times. Costumes and cast are great. Music is memorable and well done. I wonder if you really would have preferred ro "leatn" a untrue story about her...

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