Everything about Diana: The Musical is offbeat but that makes it extravagant.
This review of the Netflix film Diana: The Musical does not contain spoilers.
After Broadway had to close its curtains due to the Covid-19 situation, Diana: The Musical arrives with a filmed version of the Broadway show on Netflix, October 1. The shooting of the musical took place at the Longacre Theater on West 48th Street last summer with no audience. While we’re waiting to witness Kristen Stewart play the role of Diana, this musical will buys us some time. But I’m going to warn you. Watch it with no expectations.
Directed by Christopher Ashley, a Tony Award-winning director from “Coming From Away”. Diana: The Musical may leave you rather empty. Starring British musical artist Jeanna de Waal as Princess Diana, who may seem a little bit stiff but executes the sophisticated aura of Lady Diana we know; Roe Hartrampf as over-bearing Charles; Erin Davies as Camilla Parker Bowles; and last but not least, Broadway veteran Judy Kaye, who plays double roles as the Queen and Diana’s stepmother, who adds charms and humor to the play. All the cast deliver their roles seamlessly but what makes this musical hard to swallow is the poor execution.
Unlike books, Broadway gives us real-time experiences to engage with the story in a more lively way. It’s a very thin and dramatic line between reality and fantasy. Broadway is like living poetry and that is what makes it interesting. It’s the beauty of crafting the dialogue with the music and expressions as one embodiment. And that is one of the biggest pitfalls of Diana: The Musical. The shallow narratives.
Everything started out okay but it continues to get more deathless towards the end. Just by listening to the dialogue, you can capture the whole situation without having to invest in whatever the actors are doing on the stage. It loses the beauty of its ambiguity. I think great dialogues are the ones that give a space between the actors and audiences; there’s a freedom to explore, finding meanings to interpret, while actors drive to define their characters instead of the other way around. But what’s happening is that everything we need to know is already being served on our plates. Even an unexpected tobacco or bit of satire will do.
The retelling transition of Diana’s life feels like a rush. It keeps jumping one step at a time. One second she falls in love, in a blink of an eye, she’s diagnosed with depression. The main problem is that all of this happens without emotional depth to it. Some scenes leave unsettling with no proper reason behind what’s happening, nor closure. Rather than showcasing the life of Diana as a subject; a mother, a woman, and an individual; Diana is showcasing her more as an object of masochists; a puppet. Either way, I have to gives props for the numerous times the actress has to pull off changing her outfits right in front of our eyes. Nevertheless, Broadway seems to lives upon “Pretty girls with pretty dresses” and leaves us talking about its costumes. But again, it is something that the public is already aware of because the story about the life of Lady Diana is not something rare; it’s all over the place. The gap in between what’s already been written and what’s happening behind the coverage is what’s missing.
As for the musical aspect, you could hear the heavy influence of the British Pop-Rock. Yup, it’s because the man behind the music is none other than Bon Jovi keyboardist, David Bryan. The frequent collaborators of Joe DiPietro, an award-winning playwright and lyricist, who is known for Memphis. The music itself gravitates towards band performance with heavy pop-rock elements and some of its repertoires consist of elements of an orchestra instrument to strengthen the atmosphere for a certain scene. It sure living the lyrics “She moves in the most modern ways!” because that’s exactly how the musical direction goes. It’s extravagant, modern, and upbeat. But sadly, it’s not a memorable one. It’s monotonous with repetitive melody and themes to the point it’s draining and flattens the story. There’s more room to explore variation, mixtures, and dynamics to creates engagement and bring more diversity into the stories and characters.
Since the story is originally from Britain, the place where the most enchanting metaphors, grouchy, and sophisticated lyrics are born, I am hoping the lyrics will save the dialogue but unfortunately, musically, it faces the same redemption. It lacks novelty and it’s cliche. There’s some part that is quite witty though, like the scene where Diana and Camilla come face to face and the lyrics go “It’s a “Thriller in Manilla” with Camilla!” or the ones when Prince Harry is born and Diana starts to sing about his red hair, but yeah, it could have been more utilized. On the good side, if we’re talking about the music production quality, it is excellent! The mixing is well balanced between the choir, the instruments, and the leading vocals. The lighting department with its color tones is also giving justice to the show.
To wrap it up, rather than a dramatic adventure, Diana: The Musical leaves us feeling empty with no clear messages. I can barely remember the songs and the melody humming along to it. It’s like reading a live version of what we read on WordPress. At least, Jeanna de Waal’s smiles while hitting nigh notes do leave a quiet impression on our memories.
What did you think of the Netflix film Diana: The Musical? Comment below.