“We were interested in Diana as a character who starts with one dream and actually gets it, and then has to find a new dream,” said Mr. Ashley, who is also the Playhouse’s artistic director.
The musical zips through her early life, settles into the royal romance and marriage, and — except for a quick epilogue tying up loose ends — concludes when that marriage breaks down and a liberated Diana breaks free to find her own voice and her own way forward.
“What I love is how she constantly changes her aspirations to advance herself,” said Joe DiPietro, who wrote the book. He is 57, around the same age as Diana would be, and supplemented his general understanding of her as a doomed mega-celebrity with extensive research from the exhaustive supply of books, articles and films available in the infinite Diana-sphere. .
“I’m not a fan of musicals that try to tell about someone’s whole life,” he added. “What was interesting was the marriage. I wanted it to be very focused.”
Diana once said that there were “three people in my marriage,” meaning her, Charles and Camilla. The musical makes the trio a quartet by including Queen Elizabeth, who worked so hard, by all accounts, to keep the couple together, for the sake of kingdom and family. Other characters in the ensemble include Diana’s sometime lover James Hewitt, but the focus is on those four.
The royal-industrial complex is the gift that keeps on giving. Who among the journalists and biographers and filmmakers and television producers in Britain has not produced a work about the royals? But while most of the recent royal efforts have come courtesy of Brits like Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” “The Crown”) and Mike Bartlett (“King Charles III” on Broadway) this production is an all-American enterprise, reuniting the creative team behind “Memphis,” the left-field hit about the southern roots of rock ‘n’ roll that won the 2010 Tony for best musical.
“We’re two guys from Jersey writing about the royals,” said David Bryan, who wrote the music and collaborated with Mr. DiPietro on the lyrics. (You might know him from his day job, as the keyboardist for Bon Jovi.) “It would be like two Brits writing about the Kennedys,” he added. “In England, opinion is very divided, and so it helps that we’re removed from the controversy,” so we can see the story from an ocean-wide remove.