1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#30: Diana – The Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording,2021)
With its hilariously off-colour and risible lyrics and crappy music backing, Diana The Musical easily makes MATT KELLY’s infamous list.
Shall I describe the scene in which the Queen turns into trashy romance novelist Barbara Cartland to sing about how Diana should bang James Hewitt because he’s hung like a horse? Shall I talk about the impossibly naff choreography (sadly lost on the album version) that sees servants thrusting their pelvises at the Queen, and Diana rocking out with a wild air cello solo? Should I give you the Top Six best lyrics?
Support Witchdoctor’s ongoing mission to bring a wealth of new and historic music interviews, features and reviews to you this month (and all year round) as well as coverage of quality brand new, contemporary NZ and international music. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support Witchdoctor.co.nz. and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.
#6 (to Diana on the birth of William)
Charles: Now that I’m holding our son
Let me say jolly well done
#5 “Feel the groove! Feel the groove!
Even royals need to move!”
#4 The Queen: My son is on the telly pouring out his heart
His wife is on the town acting like a tart
#3 Diana: Alright I’m no intellect
But maybe there’s a discotheque
Where the Prince could hear some Prince
And we could all get funkadelic
#2 James Hewitt: If your life has gone off course
You don’t need no messy divorce
All you need is a man on a horse
I can take you for a ride
All your troubles tossed aside
You’ll dismount satisfied
#1 “What can a princess do when her prince takes to the air
And tells his gobsmacked subjects he’s had a love affair?
She could moan on her throne, and sob and say “boo-hoo,”
Or find a frock designed to shock, designed to say “fuck you!”
What better way to impress than to show a flash of flesh?
So how about this fuck you dress
This fuckity, fuckity, fuckity, fuckity fuck you dress?”
Diana: I’m so glad I came, I enjoyed all your jokes
AIDS Patient: You always did like sexy young blokes
“It’s the Thriller in Manila!
But with Diana and Camilla!”
I’m not joking when I say I could manage a Top 20. Stuffed with lyrical clangers like no musical I’ve seen before, the ghastly libretto from Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan and musical theatre veteran Joe DiPeitro (who really should know better) is the most obvious stumbling block of Diana.
Laugh out loud bad on multiple occasions, the lyrics have a clueless, accidentally-tasteless quality that prevents the characters from being convincing or connecting with the audience. There are problems in this area beyond the lyrics though. The portrayal of Diana as a simple humble kindergarten teacher who knows nothing about anything and is some sort of working-class hero is extremely hollow considering Diana was the daughter of a Viscount whose family had been involved with the royals for generations.
But a musical can get anyway with anything if it has good tunes. Sadly, Diana’s music is out-of-touch, with garish, bizarrely loud backing vocals that stomp over songs, a dreadful cheap drum sound, and a tendency to go for the most obvious melodies.
There are some truly awful songs here like ‘Here Comes James Hewitt’, ‘The Dress’, ‘The Worst Job In England’, ‘Secrets And Lies’ and ‘The Main Event’, if you want some leads.
Yet to be fair it isn’t relentlessly bad – one feels sorry for lead Jeanna de Waal who has a good voice and is rather likeable; she deserved better writing than this.
And at least one song shows the potential inside the project – ‘I Will’, which depicts a pre-wedding Diana overcoming her jitters and resolving to rise to the challenge of being the queen-in-waiting is powerfully performed and has great hooks. Unfortunately, moments like this and the pleasantly cheesy big weepy ballad ‘As I Love You’ are drowned out by the rubbishness that surrounds them.
This desperately wants to be Evita but without Tim Rice’s lyrical wit and with its deficit of memorable tunes, it’s more Love Never Dies. Still, I don’t hate this the way I do Love Never Dies or Nostalgia Critic’s The Wall because Diana may be terrible but it’s also terribly fun/funny in how off-the-mark and wonky it is. It could have a bright future as musical theatre’s The Room.