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November 17, 2021

“Was there ever a greater tabloid tale?”

Sung by a pack of slithering paparazzi amid an explosion of flashbulbs, so begins “Diana, the Musical,” which seems to exist to answer the question. Digging deep into the celebrity-bio-musical barrel, there to squabble for pre-eminence with pop divas and Jersey boys, it may well win the prize as the tawdriest and least excusable wholesaling of a supposedly true story ever to belt its way to Broadway.

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November 17, 2021

By now you’ve probably read, heard or seen for yourself, via Netflix, just how deliciously bad Diana is, but the truth isn’t quite so much fun. Diana, opening tonight on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre, is not a so-bad-it’s-good disaster. It’s just a regular, run-of-the-mill mess, a well-intended celebration of a beloved figure undone by one bad turn after another. More’s the pity.

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November 17, 2021

All things considered, it is impressive that “Diana” managed to open on Broadway in spite of the shutdown (the show was in the middle of previews in March 2020) and the harsh internet buzz following its Netflix debut. It’s just a shame that “Diana” was not really worth doing in the first place.

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November 17, 2021

This number, titled “The Dress,” encapsulates the combination of bad taste and tasty badness that is Diana, one of the most enjoyable Broadway farragos of the 21st century so far. The real Princess Di died in 1997 at the age of 36, and her story might be the stuff of opera. Instead, in defiance of the potential gravity of their subject, book writer Joe DiPietro and composer David Bryan—who share blame for the show’s lyrics—have opted for a campy, dishy pop-rock clip job of memorable moments from Diana’s life, rendered in a stream of ploddingly banal rhyming couplets set to tunes that sometimes assume a vaguely 1980s accent.

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November 17, 2021

To answer the question that absolutely no one with a Netflix account and an interest in Broadway musicals is asking: Why, yes, “Diana, The Musical” is every bit as abysmal as rumored.

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November 17, 2021

Therefore, I can only wince at the mindset that younger me might have developed from the picture Diana paints about what an iconic woman is. Even worse, to think, what young bright-eyed Diana herself would feel, knowing this is how she would be remembered.

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Observer
BigThumbs_DOWN

David
Cote

November 17, 2021

If this campy dreck has a virtue, it’s consistency. It is consistently witless and trashy; the show aims low and, assisted by Christopher Ashley’s busy direction and Kelly Devine’s swoop and jump choreography, always hits the target.

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November 17, 2021

Speaking of day drinking, the best Diana can hope for is that its tackiness will transform, through the magic of mess-addicted theatergoers, into a sort of warmly accepted kitsch.

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November 17, 2021

As with the car crash that took her life, the most appropriate response to “Diana” the musical is to look away.

Devoid of insight and ricocheting between dull vulgarity and vacuous hero worship, the show, which had its official opening Wednesday at the Longacre Theatre, is less edifying than a scroll through the archives of the tabloids. The musical purports to ridicule them for hounding their prey, but in actuality matches them for exploitation.

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New York Daily News
BigThumbs_MEH

Chris
Jones

November 17, 2021

Think too hard and you’ll get lost in a moral malaise over the decadence of these times when a young woman who was pursued to her death in a Paris tunnel becomes both a martyr and fodder for endlessly profitable objectification. Then again, I don’t think “Diana” is any more guilty in that regard than, say, the film “Spencer” or “The Crown.” They’re all just playing to different segments of the colossal Diana-world, all monarchial follies of our times and, of course, all screens on which we can and do project ourselves.

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Theatermania
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David
Gordon

November 17, 2021

With more than a few shades of EvitaDiana is a throwback to the mega-pop operas of 40 years ago: a little silly, a little tacky, a little offensive, but generally just fun. Leaning into the lunacy has helped this show come into its own, and if it finds its audience, we’ve got the next cult classic on our hands.

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New York Stage Review
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Jesse
Oxfeld

November 17, 2021

It is not good. It is not terrible. It is bloodless, procedural, and, in Christopher Ashley’s staging, constantly, exhaustingly turned up to 11. It lacks nearly any wit, poetry, or sense of fun—except in the few moments when the tone shifts, briefly and inexplicably, to camp. (The estimable Judy Kaye  doubles as both Diana’s regal mother-in-law and also her over-the-top step-grandmother, the pulpy romance novelist Barbara Cartland, and in the latter role offers most of those few goofy moments.) We appreciate, once again, the many trials, stolen triumphs, and ultimate tragedies of Diana’s life. But watching it all rehashed at the Longacre, we are not especially amused.

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New York Stage Review
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Elysa
Gardner

November 17, 2021

“We should be happy, dahhling,” Mrs. Parker-Bowles sniffs at one point. “We’ve succeeded beyond our wildest imaginations.” Surely, it took great restraint for Bryan and DiPietro to not rhyme “Camilla” with “gorilla” in a song until well into Act Two.

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New York Theater
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Jonathan
Mandell

November 17, 2021

Turning the Princess of Wales’ misery into pop lyrics drives home how much of a violation this musical can feel . The show depicts the British press with contempt for being insensitive and exploitative. But it’s hard to see how “Diana The Musical” is so much less so.

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November 17, 2021

It is one thing to have contradictions within characters, but Diana: The Musical fails because it fails to map these contradictions. And what the hell is it supposed to be? Serious or camp? It laughs at itself, laughs at us, and then wants us to take seriously the circus it skewers. Diana cries at us, then winks at us. She knows nothing, then she knows everything.

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Theatrely
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Juan A.
Ramirez

November 17, 2021

What is taste? What is camp? Who cares? As the planet burns and floods, who am I to gatekeep this singing girlboss from a public hungry for in-person joy. Diana is not interested in the emotional nuances of the icon’s life—there are plenty of speculative stories around that already—nor is it a particularly sharp take on celebrity, or history. Rather, it is the blissfully bitchy tale of a kindergarten teacher who is pseudo-abducted into the nefarious romance between Charles and his longtime lover, Camilla Parker Bowles (Erin Davie, sly). It is the happily frantic musical that rhymes “bulimia” with “the media,” and has Queen Elizabeth II (Judy Kaye) openly wish for her daughter-in-law’s demise (intrigue!). The princess suffers a bit, laughs a bit, sings a lot, wears a couple of vengeful dresses, then steps out of the palace into eternity.

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November 17, 2021

It could be camp — more sordid, more soapy, more altogether mad — if the creative team knew how to reconcile the ridiculousness of their project with the gravity of its true story.

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