If there’s one name in the West End that’s going to guarantee the interest of theatre fans, it’s Beverley Knight. She is without a doubt one of the greatest talents we have in London at the moment and she cements her stellar reputation by returning to her debut West End role, Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard. Knight knocks it out of the park in the role made famous by the late Whitney Houston and entertains the audience with hits such as 'Run To You', 'Dance With Somebody' and of course the classic 'I Will Always Love You'. They really pull all the stops out for this production, using all the special effects at their disposal to create a show that ticks every single box.
The Bodyguard is based on the 1992 film of the same title, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner as the pop superstar Rachel Marron and her bodyguard Frank Farmer. It was the second highest grossing film of that year and the soundtrack became one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. The musical adaptation first opened in 2012 and features all the songs from film plus some other hits from Whitney Houston’s back catalogue. The plot is a love story and thriller in equal measures, both heartbreaking and chilling. When Rachel (Beverley Knight) begins to receive threatening letters from a stalker, Frank Farmer (Ben Richards) is hired to protect her and her son Fletcher. It’s pretty close to the film version but the production brings this up to date rather than being stuck in the 90’s.
The whole production is a joy to watch due to the incredible scale of theatrical effects used. Make sure you get to your seats on time as you won’t want to miss the start, it’s really something. The show goes from feeling like a Beyonce concert, to a romantic comedy, to a scary thriller, without ever feeling muddled; the creative team have to be commended for making the show so epic. The ensemble is brilliant and they help the show to be as glossy and energetic as it is.
Mickell Stewart-Grimes stole several scenes as Rachel’s son Fletcher, charming the audience with his awesome dance moves and cheeky lines. His relationship with Frank was one of the things that gave the musical so much heart. The character of Nicki Marron, Rachel’s sister, has a much bigger impact in the musical than the film and this extra layer adds so much to the show. Rachel John’s performance as the sister who is always second choice, endears her to the audience in an unexpectedly beautiful way. I feel like she has an amazing career ahead of her and the points where she and Knight are singing together completely fills you up with emotion, it’s just that good.
Ben Richards is perfect for the role of Frank Farmer. He’s everything Kevin Costner was in the film and a bit more, an ideal romantic hero for Beverley Knight’s Rachel. Something that struck me was how funny he was, something that’s never really explored in the film, and the audience completely lapped it up. The chemistry between Rachel and Frank was believable and between them they carried the romantic heart and soul of the production well. He’s definitely leading man material so I would expect to see him in more lead roles soon.
Beverley Knight deserves household name status in my opinion. She has the most amazing voice and stage presence, you couldn’t ask for much more from a leading lady. From the very first number it was clear the audience were in for a really fun night and even before then there was a buzz in the theatre that I hadn’t felt since Kinky Boots opened last summer. Knight’s performance encompasses all that makes Rachel such a fantastic character, her tenderness as a mother, her vulnerability and her strength in knowing what she wants. My theory is that anything Beverley Knight touches turns to gold and without a doubt she is a force of nature up on the stage of the Dominion. She makes this show into so much more than a jukebox musical; I wish I could rewatch her performances again and again, especially when she brought the house down in 'I Will Always Love You'.
I couldn’t speak highly enough of this show, I absolutely loved it start to finish and it’s not often that you see the audience singing even as they leave the theatre. Go with your family, go with friends or even just on your own, because you really need to see this show. If there’s one star you make the effort to witness for yourself, make sure it’s Beverley Knight; I know for a fact you won’t be disappointed.
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