‘Diana the Musical’ is the legendary flop Broadway deserves

Broadway wouldn’t really be back unless there was one show playing that’s so ridiculous we’re baffled by its very existence.

Disgusted. Mesmerized. Offended. Addicted. Nose up. Eyes wide. Stop! Keep going …

A proud piece of trash that was somehow developed and tweaked for years with the support of egomaniacal producers, who, like Harold Hill rapping in the River City town square, convinced salivating investors to pony up millions of dollars to slap a defective disco ball onstage and then have the gall to beg for Tony Awards. 

Well, here she is, boys! The flop of the year is “Diana the Musical,” which just premiered on Netflix prior to its official opening night Nov. 17. 

To quote “Evita,” which this Princess Di-bacle borrows liberally from: “Oh what a circus! Oh what a show!” 

But, my fellow show queens, this column is not meant to be an angry, tut-tutting Di-atribe on why “Diana” is an abomination and what rules good art must follow. I don’t care what Bertolt Brecht would’ve thought, nor do I care what The New Yorker thinks. During this taped production about one of the world’s greatest collective mournings of the last half century, I laughed harder than I ever have in my life. 

And I cried, not because of Princess Diana’s death, no, but because of David Bryan and Joe DiPietro’s lyrics.

Here are some modern classics from the “Diana” book.

Cradling baby William, Charles (Roe Hartrampf, excellent, truly) croons, “Diana, I’m holding our son. So, let me say, jolly well done!”

At the start of Act Two, Diana’s extramarital side saddle James Hewitt — given a wig so red it would stop traffic — enters shirtless, from a hole in the floor, and wails, “You don’t need a messy divorce! All you need is a man on a horse!” 

Later, at a soiree with both Di (Jeanna de Waal) and Camilla Parker Bowles (Erin Davie) in attendance, the upper-crust crowd goes, “I just got a ticket to the main event! It’s a Thrilla in Manila but with Diana and Camilla!”

This is the stuff of legend.

Queen Elizabeth II (Judy Kaye), left, is harsh to Princess Diana (Jeanna de Waal), right, in "Diana the Musical."
Prince Charles (Roe Hartrampf), from left to right, and Queen Elizabeth II (Judy Kaye) are harsh to Princess Diana (Jeanna de Waal) in “Diana the Musical.”
NETFLIX © 2021

When Broadway buffs discuss the flop posters on the wall at Joe Allen, they point out the usual offenders: “Lestat,” “Carrie the Musical,” “Moose Murders,” “Lennon.” But none of those money-losers ever had the stroke of genius to rhyme Thrilla, Manila and Camilla.  

The show is a scream — and pairs with rosé better than any entree could ever hope to.

Part of what makes “Diana” such high camp is that the talent is top-notch (“Diana” marketers, clip all the out-of-context quotes you want. You’re gonna need ’em); the production value is impressive (William Ivey Long’s ornate costumes are a Di-light); and it takes itself more seriously than “60 Minutes.” 

I’ve watched “Diana,” beginning to end, three times. A friend who was cackling along with me — the Statler to my Waldorf — texted that it’s “compulsory viewing for the industry.”

He’s right. Everyone is already streaming the musical — directed by Christopher Ashley of “Come From Away,” which is a-way better — and the newly reopened watering holes around Shubert Alley are full of catty whispers.

In the movie “Amadeus,” after Mozart unexpectedly dies, the gossiping and suspicious Viennese chant “Salieri!” on the street. Meanwhile, on Broadway, the word on everybody’s lips is “Diana!”


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