Theater lovers got a sneak peek at the postponed and controversial Princess Diana musical on NBC’s two-hour special One Night Only: The Best Of Broadway on Thursday.
Diana: A New Musical claims that the late icon was ‘delighted to be freed’ from the Royal Family as her son Prince Harry, 36, was urged to get it cancelled.
The show has been widely criticised as it features a fictitious scene in which the Queen calls Diana a ‘tart’ and says: ‘In the old days we would have chopped off your head.’ Another scene sees Diana in bed with James Hewitt.
The show had originally been scheduled to open March 31, but it halted production 19 days before its planned Broadway debut due to coronavirus hitting New York.
Shock: A sneak peek at controversial Princess Diana musical claims late icon was ‘delighted to be freed’ from the Royal Family – Jeanna de Waal (pictured) performed a song from the show on NBC’s two-hour special One Night Only: The Best Of Broadway on Thursday night
Pandemic postponement: Diana: A New Musical, had originally been scheduled to open March 31, but it halted production 19 days before its Broadway debut due to the coronavirus and is schedule to return in May 2021 with its show about Princess Diana, shown in November 1985
Hosted by Tina Fey, 50, the NBC special featured songs from top musicals and raised money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a non-profit helping theater pros through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Viewers of the special got to see its star Jeanna de Waal, 32, who played the late Princess of Wales, perform one of the show’s big numbers, If. She famously studied at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.
The song deals with ‘Diana’s relief and joy about being freed from the Royal Family,’ Tina said.
From a New York City rooftop, Jeanna sang of the possibilities that might have faced the late Diana, as the show’s Tony winning co-lyricist David Bryan accompanied her on piano.
She sings: ‘I offer my goodbyes without compromise, a princess moving on. Beyond the palace staffs, beyond the photographs, a fairy tale come and gone.’
Claims: The song, If, reveled in the idea that Diana’s life could be ‘hers to choose’ again and speaks of her ‘delight at being freed’ from the Royal Family
Doors closed: ‘Over 14 million people came here to see live performances in the Theater District during the last Broadway season,’ said host Tina Fey, writer of the musical Mean Girls
Halt! Ken Wharfe, 72, Diana’s former bodyguard, has said Prince Harry should try and stop Netflix streaming the musical, saying it presents a ‘huge dilemma to them both’
The song reveled in the idea that Diana’s life could be ‘hers to choose’ again, as she delighted in the thought of ‘standing in a queue’ with the public and working on behalf of children.
The lyrics had her dreaming of a baby daughter or two, and grew louder as she belted, ‘If Charles steps aside and lets my William reign, then all this suffering will not have been in vain.’
Jeanna said earlier this year that because the show was not a documentary she had ‘a lot of freedom to explore who [Diana] was behind closed doors’.
The set features songs by Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan and a story by playwright Joe DiPietro. The pair also collaborated on the Tony-winning Memphis.
Ken Wharfe, 72, Diana’s former bodyguard, previously told The Sun that Prince Harry should try and stop Netflix streaming the musical. He said: ‘The Diana musical, soon to be premiered on Netflix, presents a huge dilemma to them both.
‘If the critics are to be believed, this musical story is not a joyous journey of love with a happy ending but an episodic account of untruths, scandal and sex.
Cast: Roe Hartrampf playing Prince Charles and Jeanna de Waal playing Diana, during a preview for the musical “Diana” at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway
Causing offence: Other lines in the musical (pictured left and right) include the Queen saying to Diana: ‘In the old days we would have chopped off your head,’ while another scene sees Diana in bed with James Hewitt
Opening: The new musical named after princess Diana has its first show in La Jolla, California in February
You what? Dancing paparazzi called Diana a ‘B***h’ and James Hewitt was naked in bed with Diana in the controversial musical
‘He now has the chance to stand alone from his wife and make clear his abhorrence of such a musical and call Netflix to account.’
Diana: A New Musical had enjoyed an extended run in La Jolla, California, before moving to New York, where it went through brief previews without an audience.
At the time, royal commentators described the production as tasteless.
Ingrid Seward, editor in chief of Majesty magazine, said: ‘It is in such bad taste that it’s best ignored.’ Asked if members of the Royal Family were likely to want to see it, she added: ‘Oh goodness no, none of them would have any interest in it.’
Cast: Above are, from left, Judy Kaye, Erin Davie, Roe Hartrampf and Jeanna
One scene in Diana recreates how the princess wore a strapless dress to a party on the night Charles announced he had cheated on her with Camilla.
Encouraging her to attend an event, a male assistant character believed to be based on butler Paul Burrell tells Diana: ‘You are going and you’re going to wear a ‘f*** you’ dress.’ One audience member who saw the show this week said: ‘I don’t think Prince William and Prince Harry would be very happy with this.’
The princes do not feature as characters in the musical, aside from their births.
Producers now plan to open on Broadway on May 25, 2021, but the show will first be recorded and streamed on Netflix sometime before that.
In an unconventional step, the cast and crew will reunite in an empty theater to perform the musical for cameras and put the finished product on the digital platform for broadcast next year, before the show welcomes a live audience again.
The show’s producers said in a statement in September:’We speak for the entire company when we say that we couldn’t be more excited to finally be able to share our show with theatre lovers everywhere’
Before it all closed: Diana started previews on Broadway in early March but never officially opened at the Longacre Theatre before the pandemic wiped out all live theater. Above, a photo of New York in January 2020
The show’s producers said in a statement in September:’We speak for the entire company when we say that we couldn’t be more excited to finally be able to share our show with theatre lovers everywhere.’
Netflix has several live-capture Broadway shows in its library – like Bruce Springsteen’s one-man musical and Kerry Washington’s American Son – but the cameras usually came in to film at the end of the live show’s run, or the release was made after the show’s conclusion.
Controversial lines in the musical ‘Diana’
The musical features a number of controversial lines including one in which the Queen says to Diana: ‘She’s going out dressed up like a tart’.
In another line, Charles says to Diana: ‘Another boy. It seems you ignored my request for a girl,’ while the Queen also says: ‘In the old days we would have chopped of your head.’
James Hewitt also remarks ‘You’ll like my horse,’ when Diana asks for a riding lesson, while butler Paul Burrell calls a dress Diana wears as a ‘f**kety, f**kety, f**kety, f**ket, f**k you dress.’
In the early hours of 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in hospital after being injured in a car crash in a road tunnel in Paris.
Her death is not shown.
Her story is also featured in season four of The Crown and her sons – Harry and William – are a source of constant news.
The special NBC event brought out some of Broadway’s best and brightest, along with artists from outside the theater world, who encouraged viewers to donate to Broadway Cares.
‘Over 14 million people came here to see live performances in the Theater District during the last Broadway season,’ said Tina, writer of the musical Mean Girls.
‘But as we all know, for health and safety reasons, last March 12th, the doors of these lovely theaters were shuttered.’
Tina called the impact on the Great White Way ‘devastating,’ with ‘thousands of theater jobs lost,’ noting that ‘each week Broadway is closed, it loses tens of millions in ticket sales.’
In support of Broadway Cares, country music star Brett Eldredge, 34, sang Oh What a Beautiful Morning, the song made famous by Gordon MacRae in the original 1955 version of Oklahoma!
Kelly Clarkson, the 38-year-old talk show host and coach on The Voice, whom Tina called ‘the nicest, hardest-working person in show business,’ appeared in a black gown to sing Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, surrounded by blue-tinted Christmas trees.
Country star: In support of Broadway Cares, country music star Brett Eldredge, 34, sang Oh What a Beautiful Morning, the song made famous by Gordon MacRae in the original 1955 version of Oklahoma!
Christmas classic: Kelly Clarkson, the 38-year-old talk show host and coach on The Voice, whom Tina called ‘the nicest, hardest-working person in show business,’ appeared in a black gown to sing Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, surrounded by blue-tinted Christmas trees
R&B legend Patti Labelle, 76, unleashed her powerful vocals on The House I Live in from the musical Let Freedom Sing!, which debuted in 1942 and ‘still lifts us all up,’ she said.
Stars from five Broadway musicals also sang their shows’ hits, among them Seasons of Love from Rent, Oh What A Night from Jersey Boys, All that Jazz from Chicago, You Oughta Know from Jagged Little Pill, and Rain from Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.
In a special moment, Tina introduced the songs Stupid With Love and I’d Rather Be Me, from the 12-time Tony nominated musical Mean Girls, based on her book of her 2004 film.
Powerful vocals: R&B legend Patti Labelle, 76, unleashed her powerful vocals on The House I Live in from the musical Let Freedom Sing!, which debuted in 1942 and ‘still lifts us all up,’ she said
Key figures from Harry Potter And The Cursed Child also showed up to do an Incendio spell that turned a paper picture of eyeglasses into real glasses for their Albus Potter, James Romney.
Barbra Streisand, 78, and Nathan Lane, 64, praised the work done by Broadway Cares, which provides medication, groceries, healthcare and emergency assistance to members.
In a flashback, Barbra was shown singing her hit People from 2006’s Streisand: The Tour.
Popular musical: In a special moment, Tina introduced the songs Stupid With Love and I’d Rather Be Me, from the 12-time Tony nominated musical Mean Girls, based on her book of her 2004 film
‘My love affair with Broadway started when I was actually 14 years old, and I saw my first Broadway show The Diary Of Anne Frank,’ she said in a voiceover afterward. ‘I remember the price of a ticket. It was $1.89 for a balcony seat.’
The experience led the EGOT winner to travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan every weekend to see musicals, and she held an usher job at age 16 before playing Mrs. Marmelstein in 1962’s I Can Get It For You Wholesale, then starring as Fanny Brice in 1965’s Funny Girl at age 21.
‘I’m worried for the thousands of dedicated professionals who have lost their jobs,’ Barbra mused. ‘And what about the audience? All of the people who simply want a break from their daily lives, who go into a show to be transported into another reality for a few hours?’
Fan favorites: The cast of Jersey Boys also performed during the two-hour special
Nathan fondly remembered the 23 Broadway shows he’d been in since his 1982 debut in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter, saying that you could ‘always count’ on theater people for help.
Sutton Foster, 45, Mary Louise Parker, 56, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, 45, Josh Groban, 39, Vanessa Williams, 57, and others discussed the ‘incredible community’ among those who work in the theater, and the hard work that goes into launching a Broadway show.
‘I remember ”before I stepped out there on opening night thinking, ”My God, I’m on Broadway”,’ said Jake Gyllenhaal, 39, of his debut in the 2014 play Constellations.
Broadway cares: Tina hosted the show that promoted Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a non-profit helping theater pros through the COVID-19 pandemic
Kristen Bell, 40, described ‘opening night jitters’ as ‘no joke,’ admitting that she had a panic attack after her first number playing Becky Thatcher in the 2001 musical The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, and the costumer had to rip off her corset so that she could breathe.
The first musical the Frozen star ever saw was Cats, which blew her mind.
‘What is happening?’ she wondered, watching it. ‘These are adults, and they’re in spandex and makeup, and they’re just being kitty cats onstage, and that’s a job? I want that job!’
Show highlight: The cast of Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations performed one of the highlights of the NBC show
Peter Gallagher, 65, said he’d had to get naked in front of his parents for his first role in the 1977 revival of Hair, calling it ‘a dilemma I hadn’t quite anticipated.’
Pose’s Billy Porter, 51, a Broadway legend, spoke memorably of his first role in the ensemble of Miss Saigon, during which ‘another pandemic,’ AIDS, took its toll on the theater community.
Antoni Banderas, 60, showed off his efforts launching A Chorus Line in Malaga, Spain, making a New York-style production that he hoped was good enough to bring to Broadway.
‘I think theater actually became more valuable in our times,’ Antonio said, reflecting on its immediacy. ‘You have to see it live, here… It is a unique experience, almost personalized for you.’
Last up: The cast of Jagged Little Pill closed out the best of Broadway special