Netflix premiere ‘Diana: The Musical’ gets a right royal roasting

Jeanna de Waal in 'Diana: The Musical'
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix has called its film of Broadway show Diana: The Musical a “landmark musical event” and certainly the fact it was filmed before it premiered in New York’s theatre land is novel, but the critics and public have been less flattering, even calling it a “right royal disaster”.

Created by Tony Award winners David Bryan (music, a former member of Bon Jovi) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics), Diana is purportedly a dramatisation of the “dazzling and devastating life of Princess Diana”, following her life from the teenager who fell for Prince Charles to the mother who rebelled against the Royal family to her last breath.

After it launched on the streaming giant, however, The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw wrote it’s so bad “there is a danger it will cause you to hyperventilate”.

The Times’ Clive Davis wrote: “Which is the most excruciating song? There’s lots of competition in this comically misconceived attempt to turn the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, into a rock musical.”

Then it was the turn of the public, who took to social media to express their opinions. One man, who works as a theatre admin, said on Twitter: “Diana: The Musical is what people who don’t normally go to musicals think all musicals are like.”

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The website for the Broadway musical says Diana: The Musical “tells the story of one of the most beloved women of modern times. Engaged to a prince she barely knows, 19-year-old Diana Spencer is thrust onto the world stage and, overnight, becomes the most famous woman in the world … Princess Diana finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage, eventually finding her voice by devoting herself to those in need. Forced to endure a media spotlight brighter than the world has ever known, Princess Diana defies all expectations to emerge as her own woman and create a legacy that will endure forever.”

But viewers don’t seem ready to accept the story of Diana as an “‘80s glam-rock musical”, as Netflix bills it. 

One writes, “Diana: The Musical commits many crimes but this one HURT”, attaching a picture of Jeanna de Waal starring as Diana with a lyric caption “Serves me right for marrying a Scorpio”.

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Another wrote how it fares badly in comparison with The Crown, particularly Emma Corrin’s award-winning performance as the young Diana in the Netflix drama.

Brian Lowry on said The Crown and other royal dramas “loom large over this vibrant but oft-told tale, dutifully recounting Princess Diana's story through a less-than-memorable assortment of songs”.

Princes Harry and William don't figure in the musical and lyricist DiPiero told the BBC he felt that would have been "a little exploitative. They'’re obviously talked about and discussed, but they don’t come on at the end.

“That to me is cheap and cheesy, which is something we've worked hard not to make this musical.”

Diana: The Musical is streaming now on Netflix.

Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.