Cheers and Jeers: A Night At DIANA THE MUSICAL In London

Kobi Kassal
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December 4, 2023 10:30 PM

No musical in recent memory has had such a chaotic life as Diana The Musical. From cancelled performances due to a pandemic, a Netflix proshot slammed, a short life on the Great White Way, all earning it cult classic stature amongst musical theatre lovers alike. So back in June when a one night only concert in London was to be presented, I knew I couldn’t miss what was to certainly be an iconic night at the theatre, and boy did it not disappoint. 

Written by Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, Diana chronicles the life of Princess Diana of Wales. Beginning with Diana's early years, the musical explores her journey from kindergarten teacher to the world of royalty. The relationship between her and Prince Charles, Camila and Queen Elizabeth II all get explored while seeing how power and the media all affect Diana. 

With an out-of-town tryout at La Jolla Playhouse in 2019, the production was set to open in New York in late March 2020 right as the world was shutting down. Directed by Christopher Ashley and starring Jeanna De Waal as Diana, the show eventually began performances on Broadway in November of 2021. Unfortunately, the show closed the following month after 33 performances and 16 previews at the Longacre Theatre. 

You can read Theatrely's review of the Broadway production by our Chief Critic Juan A. Ramirez here.

During the pandemic, the Broadway production was also filmed and premiered on Netflix to universally negative reviews and went on to win Worst Picture at the Razzies

The one question on my mind was how was a UK audience going to react to the musical about their beloved People’s Princess. The answer… they are obsessed. 

Walking into the Eventim Apollo, I spotted at least 7 of her famous sheep sweaters and I knew we were in good company. The major difference with this concert version of Diana was the choice to split the role into two with the older Diana portrayed by the incomparable Kerry Ellis who narrated the story, with Maiya Quansah-Breed as younger Diana. The splitting worked well and would be eager to see a future full production with this technique employed. 

Directed by Owen Horsley, the concert also featured Denise Welch as The Queen, Alice Fearn as Camilla Parker Bowles, Andy Coxon as Prince Charles, Jay Perry as James Hewitt, Aleyna Mohanraj as Sarah Spencer, and an ensemble featuring the Trinity Laban Conservatoire Ensemble.  

My first taste of the British crowd was upon Camilla and Prince Charles' entrance when the auditorium of approximately 3,500 patrons started booing the characters in the story. After seeing the musical a few times in New York, it was such a unique treat to experience the story in its homeland where the story means so much more. As Camilla doubts her on going affair with Charles and utters, “I’ll be the most hated woman in England,” hissing from the audience filled the space. The mere reaction upon hearing Margaret Thatcher’s name mentioned in a sound that will stay with me for a long time. 

It was clear many #Difanas were in the audience, as most of the iconic lines from the show got a huge applause such as “serves you right for marrying a Scorpio” to “better than a Guinness, better than a wank.” 

There is no doubt the Brits love Diana, and it is clear that love comes across to the musical as well. Thank you London for an unforgettable night, and can’t wait to experience this wacky little musical again soon.

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Kobi Kassal

Hailing from sunny South Florida, Kobi Kassal founded Theatrely (formerly Theatre Talk Boston) while attending Boston University. He is an avid theatre attender and can be found seeing a performance most nights of the week (in normal times!) He is interested in the cross section of theatre, popular culture, hospitality, and politics. He also loves a good bagel!