ASHLAND — This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in a car crash in a Paris tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997.
The story of the 19-year-old schoolteacher who married Prince Charles, the future King of England, captivated the world.
The couple’s fairytale beginning, the birth of their two sons, William and Harry, and their subsequent tumultuous divorce kept Lady Diana in headlines until her death. Many stories, TV shows and documentaries have been presented this year to mark the tragic anniversary, and that includes a play about Diana’s life.
“Princess Diana: The Musical” was offered to only 15 community theater troupes around the country for production this year. The Paramount Players, based at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland and led by Melanie Cornelison, was one of the arts organizations chosen to present the musical tale of Princess Diana’s life. The play is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Paramount Arts Center, 1300 Winchester Ave., Ashland. Tickets are $20 for adults; $15 for students.
More information can be found at paramountartscenter.con and 606-324-0007.
“There was an email that went out to community theater groups in the country,” Melanie Cornelison, director and choreographer of the Paramount Players, said. “To be chosen you had to meet certain criteria that included being a nonprofit 501c(3) organization, having a venue that had a certain seating capacity, and a solid history of producing quality shows. The writer of the show is Karen Sokolov Javitch, and she has a foundation that chose the theaters around the country that would produce the play in
2017 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana.”
Horrified and inspired by the death and life of Diana, Sokolov Javitch started the process of creating the play soon after the tragedy unfolded.
“The author, Karen Sokolov Javitch, began writing music for the show shortly after the death of Princess Diana,” Cornelison said. “The show has been undergoing some edits and additions in recent months. Ms. Sokolov Javitch has a passion about the story of Princess Diana, and this was her way of honoring her memory and letting new generations learn about the story of Princess Diana. The show begins in 1978 when Princess Diana first met Prince Charles at his 30th birthday party. It then covers their courtship, marriage, troubled relationship and divorce, and ends with her tragic death in a car accident in 1997. The musical is told through the point of view of Princess Diana.”
Once the Paramount Players were chosen as one of 15 acting programs who would bring this unique musical to life, the hard part was to find a cast that could get it done, especially the lead role of Princess Diana.
“Any time you are portraying actual people, it adds a level of difficulty to the casting process,” Cornelison said. “Many of the people featured in the musical are still living today, so in that respect it makes it easy to research them by watching video and reading about them,” she said.
The cast features Taylor Isaacs as Princess Diana; Shaw Wilson as Prince Charles; Sarah Brehm as Queen Elizabeth II; Elizabeth Hensley as the Queen Mum; Alexandra Wilson as Sarah Ferguson; Hannah Holbrook as Camilla Parker Bowles; Mason Furst as young Prince William; and Colton Sparks as young Prince Harry.