Diana, a new musical at the La Jolla Playhouse, is running through Sunday, April 7. Given La Jolla Playhouse’s production of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical we might expect Diana to be The Diana Ross Musical, but we’d be wrong.
This musical is not about Diana Ross. It’s about Diana Frances Spencer, who is better known as Princess Diana. If you are of a certain age, you remember where you were on July 29, 1981, when that royal wedding took place.
I was in my friend’s garage in Northridge, California, and we couldn’t believe that “foxy Lady Diana” was marrying “goofy Prince Charles”. We were nine-year-olds and the concept of royalty wasn’t fully developed into our worldview. I’d argue it still isn’t but for most of history, the concept of royalty has been clear.
Royalty is from a worldview of the past with little to no practical application in 2019. However, in 1981 it was at least a bit more understandable. The Western world was only about 65 years removed from the demise of the last remaining ruling (not only reigning) monarchies in Europe — Austria, Prussia, and Russia. The tradition of Western royalty goes back, unbroken, to Caesar. In WWI both, the “Kaiser” of Prussia and the “Tsar” of Russia had titles linguistically equivalent to Caesar.
Before Caesar, the Westen tradition was based on representative forms of government in Rome and a form of limited democracy in Athens. However, in the East, the concept stretches back into pre-history. Representative governments such as the UK, the US, and other Western democracies are anomalies. Monarchal rule is normal when it comes to humanity.
Given the history of royalty, there is no doubt that it now appears strange and unfounded. As unfamiliar as we are with royalty, Diana’s actual story is quite familiar to us. She was plucked out of obscurity and forced to choose a role she didn’t necessarily want. This is, once again, the genesis of the hero’s journey.
Much of Diana’s journey was played out in front of the world as it evolved from a fairytale to a soap opera to a tragedy. It’s a compelling story to be sure, and many of the details will be shocking to younger modern audiences.