The Musical ‘could be Broadway’s ticket to a comeback


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Since the opening of the original Broadway musical “Showboat” almost 100 years ago, the genre has always thrived on romance. Given this well-researched story, “Diana: The Musical” almost seems a perversion of the archetype – an anti-love story starring a girl who wanted to believe the fairy tale only to find it fleeting. As a streaming special, “Diana: The Musical” almost works. As a Broadway offering, it’s a solid C, too schlocky to reach emotional heights, and in desperate need of a better ending.

Even so, Netflix’s latest experience could be the return ticket to Broadway.

Given this well-researched story, “Diana: The Musical” almost seems a perversion of the archetype.

When the world shut down in mid-March 2020, the biggest musicals were gearing up to officially open just in time to reach the April eligibility date for the 2020 Tony Awards. This included “Diana,” including the opening was scheduled for March 31. The Great White Way just reopened in September 2021, but with the theater doors firmly closed, Disney’s recorded performance of “Hamilton” became Disney + ‘s first massive success that was unrelated to a franchise. already established. And he’s discovered an untapped market begging to be served: theater nerds.

Apple TV + followed the new model of staged streaming performances with the established Broadway darling “Come From Away,” which arrived in mid-September. But Netflix’s choice, “Diana,” goes even further. “Hamilton” and “Come From Away” have been established hits for several years. “Diana”, on the other hand, is still waiting for its opening night. Live premieres of the show don’t resume until November, giving the show a full month of Netflix exclusivity.

So “Diana” (or “Diana: The Musical” as Netflix calls it) isn’t just a live show filmed for the theater nerd to enjoy at home, it’s a very chic promo for the next Broadway race. The producer of “Diana” hopes letting theater fans watch at home first will get them excited and entice them to come to New York City to see the show live.

And God knows this show needs all the help it can get. In a world of “Hadestown,” this is, at best, a half-way unimaginative attempt to turn Diana’s life into a staged drama. Jeanna de Waal, dressed in 80s fashion and fluffy wigs, does her best. But the titular Diana is hampered by innocuous music and squeaky lyrics. How can she hold a candle (in the wind) at Emma Corrin’s take of season four of “The Crown” or even Kristen Stewart’s upcoming portrayal of “Spencer”? Frankly, the musical would have done better to use Elton John’s famous number than some of the original songs here. (David Bryan, one of the not famous members of Bon Jovi, is in charge of the music.) There are some real pitfalls – Judy Kaye, who plays Queen Elizabeth II, has a humanizing number towards the end of the second half. in Officier’s Wife ”- but in these cases, it is the actress who overcomes the material, not the other way around. The show may call Charles a “Third Order Henry VIII”, but with “Six” playing in the street, those lyrics could become the epitaph of the show.

If a mid-level musical can ride a streaming wave to a hit, every musical in town will be looking for its Netflix bump next year.

Except, of course, “Six” is not readily available to millions of people around the world. And unlike blockbusters, no one can argue that watching a musical at home is the same experience as seeing it in a theater – new fans will also have to come see it live if they want the full experience.

Disney has made mountains of money turning their animated musicals into long-running theatrical productions. Jukebox musicals that feature well-known tunes are money-makers, from 1978’s “Ain’t Misbehavin ‘” (which won a Tony) to Britney Spears’ upcoming “Once Upon a One More Time”. Out-of-town tourist families, who make up the bulk of Broadway ticket sales, are much more willing to pay the exorbitant prices for tickets to a live show if they know they are guaranteed to be sold. love what they hear. And now every one of them who has a Netflix subscription is going to know that “Diana”, while not spectacular, is at least a safe bet.

Moving Broadway shows to streaming isn’t going to be easy. The entire industry was built on the concept of live productions, and the multiple unions (and contracts) involved in many cases expressly prohibit the recording of their work. (As the audience is reminded at the top of every live performance they attend.) But if “Diana” was successful, she could pioneer a new model for big Broadway shows. If a mid-level musical can ride a streaming wave to a hit, every musical in town will be looking for its Netflix bump next year.

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Herman C. Harkins

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