MusicalNorth WestReview

The Bodyguard: The Musical – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen

Director: Jason Capewell

The Bodyguard The Musical is back, safe in the hands of Manchester’s Palace Theatre – starting with a bang, quite literally, and ending on the same note, taking the audience through every possible emotion along the way.

Based on the 1992 film of the same name, the production focuses on pop sensation and Academy Award-nominated Rachel Marron (Alexandra Burke), and her terrifying experiences in the spotlight as her team are forced call in ‘the bodyguard’ Frank Farmer (Ben Lewis) due to a calculating and deceptive stalker, played flawlessly by Phil Atkinson. The thrilling storyline is interjected with a versatile range of Whitney Houston hits, from the heart-wrenching I Have Nothing, to the more upbeat How Will I Know and I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

Burke returns to the production with triumph, having made her West End debut in the leading role back in 2014. This is a part made for her, having gained her own pop princess experience when she won ITV’s The X Factor in 2008 and secured Christmas number one with her unforgettable version ofHallelujah. Vocally she is stunning, although on some numbers has the potential to be even more powerful and spine-tingling, and she does not disappoint with the most anticipated number of the night I Will Always Love You. Her presence on the stage is effortless, and with around 13 songs and 25 costume changes, she seamlessly carries the show through from beginning to end.

That said, she has help along the way through her fellow cast and an outstanding set and lighting design. Lewis makes a captivating and fiercely protective bodyguard, owning the stage with his charisma and creating a truly believable chemistry with Burke. The role of Nicki Marron, Rachel’s sister, is played by the excruciatingly talented Emmy Willow, and despite having one of the smallest bios in the programme, she takes on the role of the only other lead vocalist in the show with ease – at times even surpassing Burke with her ability to throw emotion into a number. This is a performer who could easily step into the lead role and is most certainly a face to watch in the future. Supporting roles and ensemble, too, do not disappoint, keeping the audience gripped and maintaining high energy levels with their strong choreography and characterisations.

Although often simplistic on the surface, the set is superbly enhanced technically – outstanding black and white projections and dry ice, for example, being used to add tension and emotion at key moments of the plot.

With the pantomime just down the road at Manchester’s Opera House, this adds a very different dimension to the city’s theatre scene in the run up to Christmas. It’s powerful, perfectly cast, and packed with a singalong soundtrack, and is a tour well worth catching for a suspense-filling and memorable ‘moment in time’.

Runs until 4 January 2020

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Thrilling and memorable

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