The Bodyguard review - July 2016
very gaudy, but ultimately entertainingJukebox musicals are no longer a rarity on the West End, what with Thriller, Sunny Afternoon, Mamma Mia and Let It Be all paving the way to a new brand of musical that can be enjoyed by a very particular audience. In 2012 we saw a musical adaptation of the hit 1992 film The Bodyguard, starring Heather Headley, and now the glitzy extravaganza returns with international superstar Beverley Knight as the diva-esque Rachel Marron.
If you go and see a musical inspired by the songs of Whitney Houston, there's bound to be a certain amount of cheese thrown into the mix. It comes with the package. The Bodyguard opens with a bang (a very literal bang), then there are pyrotechnics galore as Knight struts her stuff in the thumping 80's “Queen of the Night”. It's all very gaudy, but ultimately entertaining, and from this one song you are given the general feel of the evening.
Beverley Knight as the pouty, spoilt Rachel is a perfect casting choice. Knight has a voice that rivals the late, great Houston, and does every single number a huge amount of justice. Effortless, graceful and insanely talented, she is the star The Bodyguard says she is. Duly supported by Ben Richards as the rather stiff Frank Farmer, the pair, unfortunately, lack the chemistry that makes you want them to fall in love. In fact, you rather hope that he does choose underdog Nicki Marron, who seems to be dealt the raw deal every time. Richards gives a very one-level performance, up until a glorious rendition of “I Will Always Love You” on the karaoke, but ultimately you never quite get any warmth from his character. Rachel John as the neglected Nicki Marron, for me, was a star turn. With a voice like silk and honey, she stole the show with her delicate portrayal of the sister always in the background.
Thea Sharrock's production is a mixed bag. Real star moments such as Knight's emotional finale of “I Will Always Love You” are hindered by an absurd screen with a giant Ben Richards on it, and you can't help but feel a simple spotlight would do. Scary stalker, played by Matthew Stathers, is so panto-baddie that he even received a “boo” from the audience at the end! Do we need to see him shirtless with a knife? Probably not. But it appeals to the ladies at the front who wolf-whistled endlessly, despite his menacing demeanour.
For those who love Whitney Houston, the return of The Bodyguard does the hits real justice. In fact, as jukebox musicals go, this one isn’t half bad. But whilst it’s entertaining and has a somewhat engaging story-line, this production simply lacks the sincerity that makes you fall in love with the characters. But it’s fun. And if you can’t have fun at the theatre, then what?
Reviewed by Susannah Rose Martin.
20 July 2016, Dominion Theatre