Despite opening almost a year ago now, The Bodyguard has suddenly become the show everyone is talking about. Multi award-winning recording artist Beverley Knight has joined the production, marking her West End debut, she is a superstar playing a superstar. While Whitney Houston famously played Rachel Marron in the 1992 Oscar nominated Warner Bros. Film, Beverley has made the role her own; it is as if she was born to play the part.
The Bodyguard is not another cheap and lazy screen to stage adaptation. Thea Sharrock's production is slick, smooth and very arty. The Bodyguard is a piece of theatre in its own right and breaks away from the stereotypical jukebox musical, most notably as the storyline has depth and an underlying grittiness. The music of Whitney Houston has not been awkwardly thrown in. Instead the majority of the numbers are delivered in performance context, while others fit in naturally. Despite each song being written to storm the charts, Whitney Houston’s music has a theatrical edge and many lyrics are meaningfully suited to the piece.
This was my second time seeing The Bodyguard and it is certainly in better shape than before. There is not a weak cast member. Tim Hatley's big and bold design gives The Bodyguard a very cinematic feel. Projections are cleverly used while scenes change constantly as the action swiftly moves from location to location, it is rather impressive.
Centring around American superstar Rachel Marron, the musical sees the singer’s safety jeopardised when a dangerous fan begins stalking the star. Rachel’s team hire bodyguard Frank Farmer to protect the celebrity against the stalker. At first Rachel doesn't approve of Frank and his ideas. However, she soon warms to him as the pair fall in love (I bet you didn’t see that one coming!). Although the concert-style finale will leave you buzzing, The Bodyguard is not cheesy and has a story to tell.
The scene in which the stalker, played by Michael Rouse, sings while stroking one of Rachel's dresses is a little questionable, but other than that I think the character is incorporated into the piece well; particularly when suspended in the air at the beginning - it's very artistically staged. The ensemble are strong but slightly underused, there are very few company numbers meaning the ensemble don't get to show off properly until the finale.
Tristan Gemmill is another strong addition to the cast, joining Debbie Kurup (Nicki Marron) whose performance earned her an Olivier Award nomination earlier this year. Debbie did sound vocally strained at times, but I quite like her edgy tone.
It is very hard to believe that The Bodyguard marks Beverley Knight’s acting debut. She performs with depth and sincerity. She plays the role as if every word and song was written for her. Beverley manages to subtly make each number her own and performs every word from deep within.
If you want to see a big West End musical that showcases some of the most iconic songs ever written while managing to deliver a gritty and engaging storyline then there is no better show in London than The Bodyguard. This show is worth seeing for Beverley Knight alone. I enjoyed the show first time round but was in no hurry to see the production again. However, after watching Beverley in action I am already desperate to see her grace the stage again and again. A West End star has been born.
Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins
Reviewed on Wednesday 16th October 2013
The Bodyguard is currently booking at the Adelphi Theatre until 8th March 2014.