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Diana in Concert - Eventim Apollo

“Another night with Charles’ friends / I pray to God that it soon ends / Nights like this, I envy the poor / Their parties can’t possibly be such a fucking bore.” So sings the ensemble in Diana: A True Musical Story, performed in concert version (and thus apparently deprived of some spoken dialogue that featured in the 2021 Broadway production. The lyrics are terrible throughout – the same song, ‘The Main Event’, describes a showdown between Diana, Princess of Wales (Kerry Ellis) and Camilla Parker Bowles (Alice Fearn) as “the Thrilla in Manila but with Diana and Camilla”. Alas, there is no bashing of handbags, no hair pulling, no actual fighting – just a few terse words exchanged, allegedly in a basement.


The show ensures a musical theatre happy ending by closing the narrative at a point shortly after Diana has agreed with The Queen (Denise Welch) that the best way forward, given Prince Charles (Andy Coxon) and his affair with Camilla, as well as Diana’s with James Hewitt (Jay Perry), is to divorce. An ‘I wish’ number, ‘If’, therefore appears at the end: “I choose happiness,” Diana warbles, stoically, “I choose a fresh new start.” Denise Welch, for the record, is very much alive, despite online claims to the contrary the day before this concert. At one point, her Wikipedia entry read: “In 2023, Welch died after a case of explosive diarrhoea”.


It wasn’t clear to me precisely why, but there were two Dianas (representing one and the same person). The other one, ‘Diana Spencer’, was played by Maiya Quansah-Breed, who did very well to recreate the mannerisms and voice of ‘The People’s Princess’, even if it was Ellis’ Diana who ended up meeting and shaking hands with Aids patients. This concert’s audience didn’t so much feel sympathy for Diana as they felt contempt for Charles and Camilla, who were at various points openly booed and hissed as though this were a pantomime. Well, it is December.


The paparazzi’s insatiable desire for more of ‘Lady Di’ is best described in a lyric both ridiculous it was laughable, as well as having a kernel of truth in it. “Better than a Guinness, better than a wank / Snatch a few pics, it’s money in the bank!” A pity (or, perhaps, a mercy?), then, that various lyrics were lost thanks to actors’ microphones repeatedly not being turned on before they started singing. The tunes are, mind you, quite lively and catchy, which makes ‘An Officer’s Wife’ seem more than a little out of place, all soft and poignant (ish), not least because the thought of Queen Elizabeth II “in the arms of her sailor prince” (that is, Philip), is not one I wish to dwell on, thank you.


It's all rather bonkers, really. I didn’t see the Netflix film which got more or less universally panned, and all I can say is that this version didn’t take itself too seriously. Marks for hamminess in a show that gambled by playing to the balcony – and somehow, despite banal lyrics, follow spot lights that weren’t always where they should have been, microphones that intermittently didn’t work and a programme that cost £8 but had nothing to say about book and co-lyricist Joe DiPietro and composer and co-lyricist David Bryan, won over an audience expecting something utterly diabolical but instead found something surprisingly entertaining.


Three stars

Poster design: Rebecca Pitt

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