2 NoVA natives create musical about Princess Diana

Their on-stage performance depicting Princess Diana’s life may have been canceled, but NoVA natives Randal Dewey and Angela Knight still have a story to tell.

queen diana with a crown
© Kimimasa Mayama / Reuters / stock.adobe.com

Editor’s Note: This story was published in our April 2020 print issue. The musical, Princess Diana: Queen of the People’s Hearts was originally scheduled to be held on April 4. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, it has been canceled. 

With the popularity of Netflix’s The Crown and the frenzied media coverage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s marriage, it’s safe to say that Americans are obsessed with our royal friends across the pond—and always have been. Princess Diana herself remains a legacy in both British and American culture, and this month, local fans of the People’s Princess can head to Hylton Performing Arts Center to watch Princess Diana: Queen of the People’s Hearts, a musical written by two Northern Virginia natives, Randal Dewey and Angela Knight. Here, they share the need-to-know details about the show.

How did the two of you decide to create the musical?

AK: I was at the Kennedy Center watching Hamilton. I had a lightning bolt plot in my brain; it was just an aha moment. I was filled with confidence and I said, “I’m going to write a musical about Princess Diana.” I ran out during intermission, grabbed a pen out of my purse and my little envelope that my tickets were in and I started writing the musical immediately. Then I ran out to the fountains outside and I called Randal and said, “Do you want to partner with me and write a musical about the life of Princess Diana?” He and I have always partnered together; we’ve been friends for 16 years.

RD: Angela and I always collaborated musically. I immediately jumped into it. I grabbed a lot of books and started researching Princess Diana, and took a more analytical approach. It really set itself out in two acts—it was blatantly obvious from my research to do so. It almost wrote itself: Act one is the courtship and fairy tale wedding, and the second act follows Diana mania through her marriage falling apart and her tragic ending.

Is the show fact-based or were creative liberties taken with the plot line?

AK: It’s fact-based. Everything I learned about her growing up was from the media, and it is all pretty true and factual, as we have now discovered by researching her life. Life is very theatrical, very traumatic and some real-life situations you can’t make up. Her life was complex; you don’t have to add anything else to it.

What was the inspiration for the title?

RD: When the marriage was falling apart and they were getting a divorce, there was a big argument about whether the royal title would be stripped from Diana. She famously got asked, “Do you care if you’re Queen of England?” and she said, “I don’t care if I’m the Queen of England, as long as I am the queen of the people’s hearts.”

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