Starting in October, you can see Roe Hartrampf ’05 on Netflix as Prince Charles in the world premiere of Diana: A New Musical. It’s an exciting moment, but it’s not quite how the story was supposed to go.
In March 2020, Diana began previews on Broadway. After months of rehearsal, Roe and the rest of the cast were performing on the stage of the Longacre Theatre in front of live audiences, only a few short weeks away from the show’s official debut night. Roe’s parents flew up to New York for the first night of previews, even though some of his friends had suggested he wait a few more weeks.
“I was so excited to have my mom and dad in the audience for the first preview, even though people told me I should wait until opening night or even a little after. But I’m so glad I did that,” he says.
His mom came for a second performance later in the week with friends from her book club, and by that time, backstage guests had been prohibited as a precaution against the coronavirus that was being talked about in the news. When Roe got a phone alert five days later saying the NBA had shut down because of this virus, COVID-19, he knew Broadway would also shut down for a few weeks. Sure enough, he was dismissed for four weeks starting the next day.
“At the moment, it was like a vacation. I thought I would take a short trip and rest,” he says. “Now, the date has been pushed back further and further, and I have mixed emotions—the first being that I’ve been working toward this for 10 years, I finally reach the mountaintop, and then I’m told to go home. But I’m incredibly grateful. I know what it is to be unemployed, but what I’ve never had before is a job to go back to. I’m incredibly lucky to have a contract to go back to.”
Diana is now set to debut on the Broadway stage in December. But COVID-19 didn’t represent a total pause for the cast and crew.
Last June, Roe and the rest of the cast called in for a monthlong Zoom workshop to rehearse new and reworked scenes writers had been tweaking during the hiatus. Turns out, the production staff had something else up their sleeves—but the cast didn't know exactly what when the workshop ended. In July, Roe and his castmates learned that producer Frank Marshall, who had worked to film Jurassic World: Dominion in a COVID-safe bubble, had signed a deal for Netflix to premier the musical along with lead producer Beth Williams of Foresight Theatrical.
The cast and crew returned to New York and followed similar COVID-19 precautions to those used for Jurassic World. Each member self-quarantined for two weeks, then moved into a New Jersey hotel to begin rehearsals after receiving negative COVID-19 tests. “We got into the ballroom and, with masks and face shields on, did full choreography and full staging together for two weeks,” Roe remembers. “We did not leave that hotel. There was a rooftop where we could get fresh air, but there was no leaving.”
When it was time to film Diana in its home theater, the cast and crew moved to a Manhattan hotel walking distance from the theater. Over the course of four days at the end of September, they filmed the movie version and recorded the soundtrack.
With some rewritten scenes, the Diana that debuts on Netflix in October has never been seen by an audience. While things didn’t go the way anyone expected, Roe’s turn as Prince Charles is literally one for the history books. “This experience is going to be something I talk about forever. In a lot of ways, I’ve been lucky to be part of history. This will always be part of the story of my Broadway debut.”