MusicalReviewSouth East

The Bodyguard – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Reviewer: Dan English

Based on the screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan

Book: Alexander Dinelaris

Director: Thea Sharrock

Mystery and pop smash hits abound in this musical version of the hit 90s Whitney Houston film as The Bodyguard continues its UK tour reaching Dartford’s Orchard Theatre.

The production largely follows its film predecessor, with Melody Thornton taking on Houston’s iconic role as Rachel, who grapples with being harassed by a crazed stalker while slowly falling for her hunky hero bodyguard Frank (Ayden Callaghan). As love grows between the two, from vastly different worlds, this production is a thrilling musical underpinned by a superb array of Houston’s smash hits.

Thornton’s Rachel is typically stubborn to begin with, refusing to have her life controlled by Frank’s desire for security. Thornton has the unenviable task of bringing to the stage an array of Houston’s classics and brings to the stage her previous experience of playing the role to confidently deliver. At times, the character feels a little understated despite the big numbers performed, but nevertheless, this is a commanding leading performance.

Callaghan’s Frank is straight-laced and a good contrast to the glitz and glamour of Rachel’s life. Frank’s charm comes in his almost suave and mysterious characterisation, though Callaghan is afforded a few lighter moments which he does seize. Callaghan and Thornton work well together as their relationship grows but in truth this still feels rushed and a little too quick to really make you feel for the characters, perhaps not aided by some remarkably hyperbolic uses of shadow and projection to capture the pair in a cheesy embrace at the end of Act One.

Emily-Mae’s Nicki Marron is strong, and this particular portrayal captures Nicki’s fragility and frustration as the sister in the shadow of her sibling. She dazzles and is the standout performer of the supporting cast. The production is also supported by a small yet hardworking ensemble who work well with superb choreography to bring to life eye-catching routines. Despite their small number, scenes at clubs and gigs feel chaotic and help to enhance the mystery as Rachel’s stalker draws ever nearer.

The Bodyguard more than simply compares to its original, and this is a fresh take on the 90s film while still drawing closely from its source material. Houston’s songs still feel as new as they did then, a testament to both the artist but also the delivery in this production, and this combines well with some genuine jump scares and suspense that has just enough mystery to keep you tense. In places, it’s a little clumsy, but this is definitely a fun night out for fans of the film or Whitney Houston or, by the end, if you simply want to dance with somebody.

Runs until 1 April and continues to tour

The Reviews Hub Score

A glitzy production.

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