★★★★★: Diana gets the musical she deserves, ‘Diana, the Musical’

“Diana, the Musical”: The Young Vic

★★★½

It’s hard to watch “Diana, the Musical” and think that anybody cares how and why Princess Diana died. It’s almost a relief, to see it put away.

With the benefit of hindsight, the deaths of Diana, Dodi Fayed and their driver are clear. Dodi’s prognosis seemed grim; the first concern of the first responder on the scene, a British diplomat, was to do “as little harm as possible.” The plan was to bring the car to a halt at the royal family’s palace, ask the occupants to get out and wait for the arrival of the police.

But the Diana character, played by Eloise Laurence, lives as long as she inhabits the stage. The Princess is all about herself, no matter what.

Much of “Diana, the Musical” revolves around Diana’s complicated relationship with Charles (Patrick Malahide), with whom she embarked on a series of secret liaisons that became public. The show is derived from Neil Bartlett’s 2016 play “Diana: In Her Own Words,” and it proves the product of a piecemeal approach that fragments the gossipy talk, plays to Diana’s strengths as a chameleon and airs the princess’s darkest secrets.

Laurence infuses her performance with sympathy — for Diana, but also for the confines of the stage and the aimless manner in which the script dabbles in politics. It’s effective, which is probably the point.

And then there’s the issue of the cameras. Any objective assessment of Diana’s relations with the paparazzi — that is, the precise relationship between celebrity and culpability — will have you guessing. In a series of BBC interviews, the princess said the following: “There was this great long tunnel. And I just felt they were closing in — everything was black and white for me.”

Which is basically the first thing any of us knows about that tunnel. A West End production of the show appears to have picked up the bullet points. The unreliability of these contents has certainly given rise to an endless round of accounts of “incestuous TV.”

Once the script and the camera production are mashed together, “Diana, the Musical” becomes an unbearably rote affair, the product of a slick production that falls short of the “news” in “Diana.” The rambling script tries to engage Diana’s insatiable British appeal, even if the whole enterprise is riddled with trapdoors and strings. Nobody in the “Diana” cast really tries, which is a shame. Malahide, as Charles, is as clinical in his performance as he is threatening, and Laurence has such an unlikable face that the show would be better off bringing in a more nurturing security guard.

And so, with the constraints of time and circumstances off, “Diana, the Musical” becomes nothing more than a cardboard princess, dancing the cha-cha on her knees.

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