PRINCESS Diana was a tortured soul of a royal, with an unprecedented life so full of contradictions it deserves its own place in entertainment history.
One day, I firmly believe, a musical will adequately tell how she changed pop culture and the cult of celebrity for ever. A modern-day Evita, if you like. But Call Me Diana — a long-awaited musical showcased this week in London’s West End — is certainly not that production.
One day a musical will tell how Princess Diana changed pop culture and the cult of celebrity for ever – but Call Me Diana isn’t it[/caption]
I wanted to like it, especially given their Diana, Welsh actress Natasha John, is perfectly cast.
Even as a complete unknown, she does a much better job than Australian actress Naomi Watts in that Hollywood atrocity about the late Princess of Wales’ life.
But the whole concept of this musical is flawed from the off.
As I revealed a few weeks ago, nervous producers axed the main characters from Diana’s life altogether for fear of offending the Royal Family.
Diana, played by Welsh actress Natasha John, is perfectly cast[/caption]
So there is no Prince Charles, William, Harry, Dodi Fayed or even The Queen. Other than a brief verbal reference to her battle with bulimia, there’s also none of the personal trauma or vulnerabilities that made Diana such a beloved figure.
Instead, she is portrayed as a Mother Teresa-like figure, floating through life bonding with children and servants.
While David Smart’s original compositions are strong, the script is basic, hackneyed and, at times, childish. Diana’s well-documented extramarital affairs are replaced by a weird love story with a fictitious TV reporter called Ben.
His unrequited love, we are told by a po-faced narrator, is meant to represent how the world felt about Diana. “Her golden coach is turning into a pumpkin,” he wails intensely, while swimming in a very Nineties brown suit, “and she doesn’t have Walt Disney to write her a happy ending.”
There’s none of the scandal or trauma, just Diana portrayed as a Mother Teresa-like figure, floating through life bonding with children and servants[/caption]
The villains of the piece are, predictably, not her enemies within the Royal Family or even love-rival Camilla Parker Bowles, but rather the media getting rich off her celebrity. That’s a surprise to me given the Daily Mail’s great former Royal Correspondent Richard Kay — a close confidant of Di, who famously spoke to her just before she died — is credited as the show’s Story Editor.
Diana’s tragic death is referenced only very briefly, off-stage, at the start of the show.
Instead, we are treated to lengthy scenes of Di singing with her “real friends” — the servants downstairs at Kensington Palace.
Nervous producers axed the main characters from Diana’s life altogether for fear of offending the Royal Family[/caption]
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“You may be very royal but to us you’re very normal — and you never once look down your nose,” they warble while madly cleaning her candlesticks and rearranging her flowers without a hint of irony.
That’s not to say the show is without highlights. Popera singer Natasha holds the stage during the powerful ballad I Can Only Dream — the show’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina moment. But again, the lyrics are devoid of realism as she pleads for Prince Charles to take her back, singing: “You said I’d always be your Queen Of Hearts.”
There’s been a lot of revisionist history about the true brilliance of Diana since her death, but nothing quite as blatant as Call Me Diana.
No Prince Charles, William, Harry, Dodi Fayed or even The Queen[/caption]
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