The Bodyguard – The Alexandra, Birmingham

Reviewer: Clare White

Book: Alex Dinelaris

Director: Thea Sharrock

Superstar diva Rachel Marron has fame, fortune  – and an obsessive stalker. When ex-secret service agent Frank Turner is hired as Rachel’s personal bodyguard, she is dismissive of her po-faced protector and his strict rules, until the stalker gets too close for comfort. She accepts her life is in danger and that she needs Frank’s help to protect her family, however, things get complicated as they start to fall in love.

Based on the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, the musical version of The Bodyguard is a vibrant spectacle, successfully executed as a romantic-thriller-cum-pop-concert. The show starts, literally, with a bang as the sound of a gunshot reverberates around the theatre without warning. Under the direction of Thea Sharrock, it is pacey and exhilarating, as one moment we are watching Rachel performing to her adoring fans, and the next the atmosphere swiftly darkens as the stalker emerges from the shadows wielding a knife. There are also welcome moments of sweetness and light as we see Rachel’s softer side through her relationships with young son Fletcher and sister Nicki and her comical attempt to ask Frank out on a date.

Tim Hatley’s multi-functional sliding doors set, video projections and effective lighting create a versatile space, framing pivotal moments and transforming the atmosphere.

The film boasts one of the most successful soundtracks in history, and with the clever addition of songs from Houston’s impressive back catalogue, including Greatest Love of All, I’m Every Woman, I Wanna Dance with Somebody and One Moment in Time, a gift of a score has been assembled.

Following a sell-out West End run and 2015 tour, Alexandra Burke returns as Rachel Marron, a role she continues to make her own. From the opening number, Queen of the Night, she is a commanding force of nature, delivering a masterclass in musical theatre, with a stunning vocal performance and some fine acting, switching between diva and vulnerable mother with convincing ease. Burke’s rich husky tones make a great contrast with the pure pitch of Emmy Willow, who plays her sister Nicki; their duet Run to You is spine-tinglingly good. Willow herself also shines, producing a stunning Saving All My Love solo. It’s a shame that the conclusion to her character’s storyline, a dramatic moment in the second half, is somewhat glossed over.

Ben Lewis stars as strait-laced bodyguard Frank Turner, giving the seemingly one-dimension character more personality than previous incarnations. In a non-singing role, his attempt to vocally massacre I Will Always Love You in a karaoke bar is good fun. Phil Atkinson is seriously sinister as The Stalker and young star Riotafari Gardner is adorable as Rachel’s son Fletcher.

The nearly 30-year old legacy of The Bodyguard continues to be safeguarded thanks to Burke, who has taken a role so synonymous with Houston to a new level.  Her soaring performance of I Will Always Love You is a powerful climax to an energetic production, with a superb score that continues to delight.

Runs until 1 February 2020

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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