Princess Diana is about to join the likes of Alfred Doolittle and Bert the chimney sweep as she jazz hands her way onto stage on Broadway. And the question on everyone’s lips is, will Diana: The Musical be heading to the West End next?
In an age when everything nineties is back in fash, from Alice bands to Spice Girls, it was only a matter of time before the decade’s biggest icon hit the boards. Forget the remakes of Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, the life of Lady Di is the ultimate ninteties throw-back.
Starting out in San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse, the musical was, somewhat surprisingly, a critical success and when the run ended in April it was always a contender to transfer to New York’s Broadway. And given Broadway and London’s West End is basically a thespy revolving door, it’s presumably only a matter of time before we get it too. The question is: can London take it?
The play is set in 1981, at the height of Diana-mania, and centres around Diana, Charles and – you guessed it – Camilla Parker-Bowles. The lead role is played by the uncannily lookalike-ie actor Jeanna de Wall and with music by Bon Jovi’s David Bryan as well as playwrite Joe DiPietro who won a Tony Award for his musical Memphis. It previews at the Longacre Theatre in March 2020.
DiPietro is keen to stress that it’s not about slinging mud at the royals, telling journalists ‘we’re two guys from New Jersey… we don’t have royalty in the US, so for us it’s just fairytale princesses and stuff like that. For us, it’s really just about the human story. It just happens to be about royals. Everyone who saw the first reading of the show agreed that it was really a human story’
But London will be a tricker nut to crack, because despite the passage of time Diana remains queen of people’s hearts, kept alive in endless Express front page conspiracy theories and through her sons William and Harry. The Naomi Watts film (actually rather good, by the way) was widely panned as a car crash and the saintly royal appears to remain above reproach. However, as Netflix hit The Crown starts to touch on the touchy subject, it’s likely that attitudes may start to change.
And maybe that’s the point where Diana: The Musical will sashay onto a stage in Theatreland?