There’s a Princess Diana musical coming to Broadway next year, as was just announced today. That might sound like an enticing proposition, given that so much of the Great White Way has lately devoted itself to turning old movies into tourist-pleasing musicals. Why not something historical? However, don’t expect for Diana to do for the late Princess what Evita did for Eva Peron. From the reviews of the production’s out-of-town tryout run at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego earlier this year, there’s no aspirations of Broadway classicism here. Instead the production aims for light snark and spoof, with an F-bomb dropping Queen Elizabeth, a boxing match between Diana and Camilla Parker-Bowles, and some gratuitous moments involving six-pack abs amongst the show’s more notable moments, at least according to reviews from the run. Which, depending on your taste, may not exactly turn you off, but it’s probably not what you’re expecting. The editor of royal-centric magazine Majesty has already declared, that “It is in such bad taste that it’s best ignored.”
Indeed, the creative team behind the project includes David Bryan, the keyboard player for Bon Jovi, and his fellow New Jerseyan Joe DiPietro. The pair’s most notable work together before was the Tony-winning hit Memphis, but the pair also collaborated on a musical adaptation of The Toxic Avenger. Which is to say they have a flair for the tongue-in-cheek.
While the production went back into workshop mode after it’s run in San Diego (which, we should add, was a hit, extended twice), much of the key cast (including Jeanna de Waal in the titular role and Tony winner Judy Kaye in a duel role as both Queen Elizabeth and the famed British romance novelist Dame Barbara Cartland) will reprise their roles when it makes the transfer.
Here, some of the more enticing things we learned about the production from the write-ups of the San Diego version.
Queen Elizabeth Loves to Swear
If you want something sympathetic to QEII, stick to The Crown, because the portrayal of the Monarch here is decidedly irreverent. In a number inspired by Diana’s famous “fuck you” dress, it’s the Queen herself who comes to close to dropping the f-bomb several times only to be censored (it’s a family show after all). The play also somewhat blames her for Prince Charles’ decision to attempt to balance both Diana and Camilla. “Queen Elizabeth … offers the romantic equivalent of realpolitik in the song ‘Whatever Love Means Anyway,” wrote The Los Angeles Times. “In short, ‘love evolves and bends/And men take other friends.’ Charles, ever the dutiful son, takes this to mean he can discreetly have his Diana and his Camilla too.”
Diana’s Infamous Step-Grandmother Makes Some Appearances
American audiences might not be quite as familiar with Diana’s step-grandmother, the romance novelist Barbara Cartland, but she’s considered quite the character in England. A heavily made-up society figure, Cartland’s novels were, at least according to her, the only books Diana ever read, something Cortland doesn’t think ended up doing her much good when it came to her expectations of marriage. Cartland apparently supplies the comic relief for the first act.
Diana and Camilla Have a Boxing Match
It’s Parker-Bowles, of course, who serves as the main antagonist (her name gets rhymed with “Godzilla” in one song), and the pair actually face off in a ring in a scene that divided critics. “The ultimate faceoff between Diana and Camilla as a boxing match feels a little too easy,” wrote The San-Diego Times Union. Though, the fight is merely vocal, as they don’t actually come to fisticuffs.
Diana’s Rumored Lover Jamie Hewitt Gets Trotted Out Magic Mike Style
“Babies have been conceived in less time than it takes a shirtless Gareth Keegan playing Diana’s paramour James Hewitt to strut his six-pack abdominal stuff,” wrote The Times. The scene ends up with Hewitt and Diana in bed together, which has seemingly scandalized some Diana fans.
Some Things Are, Thankfully, Left Out
While the births of Princes William and Harry and acknowledged, they don’t become characters in the play. Most wisely, the plays side-steps the circumstances of Diana’s death, and merely ends by acknowledging it.
All-in-all, the production so far has been met with decidedly mixed reviews, but tweaks are expected to be made before it’s Broadway premiere.