Diana, the Musical review – a royal mess

You’d probably think that naming a theatre production after an iconic singer with a history of mental health troubles would be frowned upon. However, the “Diana, the Musical”, at Wheeldon Theatre in Covent Garden,…

Diana, the Musical review – a royal mess

You’d probably think that naming a theatre production after an iconic singer with a history of mental health troubles would be frowned upon. However, the “Diana, the Musical”, at Wheeldon Theatre in Covent Garden, does just that. This show will explore many aspects of the whole royal family, with its narrative largely focusing on the relationship between Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

Samantha Goodhand’s script is rather thin, to say the least. The cast cannot find the right balance between accuracy and sensationalism, so much so that a new 10 minute glossary is introduced in the end. It explains everything the main character would never say and asks anyone who might be confused to see the bigger picture.

Then there is the whole #MeToo thing. The Wages of Gratification musical grossed over $1.6m in 2018 in its world tour, and it’s clearly making a killing and handing out heavily contractually-possessed t-shirts. As royalty takes on a more Americanised vibe than ever before, a theatre production titled after Diana inevitably exposes its female leads to scrutiny for flirting and sleeping around.

Right away, in the performance I attended, things go awry when one of the characters seems to misrepresent her character. Camilla Parker Bowles (played by India De Beaufort) leaps out at the audience to sing about “Camilla”, to audible protests, and a nasty heckler. Though she may have just a little bit of the pub or book-reading persona under the right leader, Parker Bowles should have been left out of the show. Diana, too, should have been left out, considering that she has a different arc, one that really fits well in Wheeldon Theatre’s space. And by the end of the show, when all the talking heads have appeared, just one voice remains. Samantha Davis is, and always has been, Princess Diana. She not only conveys moments of vulnerability, her voice is a chameleon, one that disguises herself with the lyrics, mimicking lines from Les Mis. (“If he couldn’t give you, trust your heart,” Davis’s Diana sings at one point, in the performance where she takes over the script.)

Of course, the other lead is Harry; played by Ethan Brown. Having only worked with him once before, it was clear right away that he was going to be the central character. He has a smart mouth and cheeky sense of humour that was charming and entertaining, especially because of a clear acting identity. Not only is Brown the show’s comic relief, the former Page 3 model stole the show with his thick British accent. He had to work hard to make it sound believable, but doing so through a personality is something he can pull off without the aid of glasses.

It’s hardly a surprise that Charles is a major focus of the show. Much like Brian Cox’s Charles in The Crown, you’d never be able to pick Charles out of a lineup. If anything, the casting was poorly executed. Anthony Whelan is a particularly anemic Charles, a fella that might as well not have a face. It’s just too soft and bland, and wanly returns his character to his dull pompous nature. Spencer Kawacz plays William, Diana’s brother, just like he is in a real royal family picture. And why the hell was Christopher Adrian’s Charles needlessly cast as a rapping Teddy boy? His line delivery is painfully bad. When Charles tries out his love song for Diana, he struggles with multiple delivery errors that elicit groans from the audience. When he sings, “You don’t have to say how much I love you. You just give it to me,” it’s not just lip-syncing and pure silliness.

Leave a Comment