Jeanna de Waal

Vintage shirt by Yves Saint Laurent from the Albright Fashion Library

Live from New York: Jeanna de Waal

Jeanna de Waal was about a week into previews of Diana, the Musical last year when Broadway came to a complete halt. Almost exactly twenty months later, the show finally opened this week as one of the first new musicals to make its bow this season. "It's been such a long time. It hasn't been a break," the English actress says. "It's been a different life." The title role de Waal inhabits is none other than that of one of the most scrutinized figures of the modern era, the late Princess of Wales, who has been the subject of renewed interest recently thanks to The Crown, Spencer, and now a grand and glamorous stage production that traces her tragic life to the very end.

For de Waal, who played Diana in the show's first workshops and in a 2019 run at the La Jolla Playhouse, each return to the role has deepened her performance and her understanding of the character. "I've been developing this role since 2017 and I've gone through massive changes in my life in that time—hard ones, good ones—so I think each time you have a break, you can't help but bring your own influences into it," she says. "I hope each time I've done it, it's gotten a little bit fuller and more nuanced, because it's like a painting. You can't start seeing everything the first time. It's definitely been a blessing to keep coming back to a role and seeing how it shifts and changes each time."

The biggest change for de Waal during the pandemic shutdown was the flourishing of Broadway Weekends, an educational initiative she oversees with her sister that began as an annual musical theater camp for adults and now hosts dozens of Zoom classes a week to students from over forty countries. In conjunction with Diana, the organization will now offer a virtual education program for middle and high schoolers meant to inspire a love of theater and the arts. "It's so special because all my energy during this pandemic has been going into Broadway Weekends," de Waal adds, "and now it's going to be tied together so beautifully."

As she settles into the rhythm of seven or eight shows a week, de Waal, a veteran of productions including Kinky Boots, American Idiot, and Waitress, says that what she is most looking forward to is simply "living the life of being on Broadway," with its rounds of openings, parties, and late-night dinners. "It's a family. You create a community within your cast," she elaborates. "Having done a few Broadway shows now, it's just a wonderful time. It's as good as you can imagine."

Diana, the Musical is now playing at the Longacre Theatre, New York. Read this story and many more in print by preordering our Fall issue here. See the full Live in New York series here.

Hair by Tina Outen at Streeters. Makeup by Andrew Colvin at Streeters. Set design by Jacob Burstein at MHS Artists. Photographer's assistant: Kyrre Kristoffersen. Stylist's assistants: Maria Montane and Malén Denis. Hairstylist's assistant: Amesha Alston. Makeup artist's assistant: Crisdanil Hidalgo. Set designer's assistant: Casilda Garcia Lopez. Digital technician: Leslie Knott. Production by Heather Robbins at CLM.

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