Book: Alexander Dinelaris
Director: Thea Sharrock
Reviewer: John Roberts
Having been created just 10 months after the untimely death of award-winning singer Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard musical still features the singer heavily throughout. The use of Houston’s back catalogue of disco hits and ballads impregnate the whole show, overall this works, but there are times when the songs as with most other shows of this genre, feel shoe-horned in to fit the narrative.
Following singer Rachel Marron (played with confidence by Alexandra Burke), as she struggles to balance the task of being a single mother alongside being one music’s biggest stars, we share a glimpse of her at the height of her success, nominated for an Oscar alongside her sister Nicki (Micha Richardson) she gains the unwanted attention of an infatuated fan, who will stop at nothing to ensure the affections of Rachel will be his and his alone.
Burke is no stranger to the role of Rachel Marron having played it more than any other actress, she certainly has the confidence, but on press night her accent was dubious and her voice strained – something which also hampered her performances when she toured in Sister Act too. Richardson as Marron sister Nicki, is a breath of fresh-air, staggering vocals and understated performance, this reviewer would love to see her in the lead role, does a show like The Bodyguard really need a “named performer” to sell? In the titular role Benoît Marcéha, looks and acts the part and has incredible chemistry with the young actor playing the role of Rachel’s son Fletcher who on press night was played with real conviction from Jesse Oniha.
Director, Thea Sharrock, has a difficult task bringing the beloved title across from screen to stage, there are too many comparisons that people undoubtedly will want to make, but for the most part, the musical is a loving tribute to the film. That said Sharrock misfires on the direction several times, the tension of the stalker storyline is lost every time we see Phil Atkinson take to the stage – either in filmic transitions or in person, these moments garner laughter from the audience for all the wrong reasons. We don’t need to see who the stalker is until the reveal later on in Rachel Marron’s house, likewise the final crescendo at the Oscars has all the tension of a limp lettuce and leaves you feeling incredibly underwhelmed at what you have just witnessed. If you want the audience to feel tension, don’t give them everything from the start, audiences like to piece together the jigsaw themselves.
It’s a slick show especially when the production moves from scene to scene courtesy of Tim Hatley’s clever stage design of moving flats, which help to create a sense of film on the stage, or when the production flips to the concert performances of Marron thanks to a sublime sound design from Richard Brooker and stunning but occasional blinding lighting from Mark Henderson. But overall The Bodyguard just feels a little flat and lacking that magic and tension to really make it shine.
Runs until 9 March 2019 | Image: Paul Coltas