The Bodyguard musical is a stage version of the 1992 film which starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. Following her recent death, the show has been modified to include tracks from Whitney’s back catalogue, and has thus become a form of tribute to the star. And what a fantastic tribute it is! The musical starts with a bang.
Heather Headley, an American Grammy winner appears on stage kicking the show off with a highly energetic performance of ‘Queen of the Night.’ She is introduced as Rachel Marron, an international pop star diva and single mum. We get to meet her adorable son Fletcher, and an equally-talented, yet overshadowed sister Nicky (Debbie Kurup). The audience discovers Rachel’s family is in danger as she is being stalked by a seriously disturbed individual. Her manager therefore hires Frank Farmer (Lloyd Owen), a top security guard with a past in the secret services. Seemingly unaware of the potentially lifethreatening situation she is in, Rachel is initially antagonistic towards Frank, but her feelings for him develop with the plot. Heather Headley, delivering a vigorous performance both musically and dramatically, is the obvious star of the show. She delivers each and every line with passion and commitment. Her stage sister Debbie Kurup is also an incredibly talented performer and gives Headley a good run for her money, especially while performing the ‘Run To You’ duet. The singing is mainly done by the female characters, but there is a half-comic yet memorable rendition of ‘I will always love you’ by Lloyd Owen that got laughs from the audience.
As the show progresses, the storyline mirrors that of the film, bar minor updates to reflect technological developments (i.e. Rachel’s appearance in a karaoke bar gets filmed with a mobile phone and uploaded online, and the video then goes viral). The adaptation employs clever set and stage arrangements. Perfectly-timed sliding screens focus on different parts of the action and there is also a significant quantity of video content splashed over the scenery. Particularly striking is a huge rotating log cabin that appears on the stage in the second half. The overall impression while watching, and one that persists for some hours after the performance, is that you’ve just witnessed musical perfection. The moves are choreographed so that dancers perform in complete synchrony, the soloists never miss a note and the whole show is just so visually stunning you feel like the magic of a Hollywood blockbuster has just become 3D right in front of your eyes. The show is incredibly slick, although there is perhaps some dissonance between the overall positive vibe of the performance and the somewhat sad story that is actually being presented. This certainly did not seem to bother the audience, as they sat clapping to the songs or murmuring along. After the curtain dropped and went back up again, the cast got a standing ovation from a generous proportion of the audience (worth also noting that the theatre was filled to capacity, even at this mid-week performance). Headley then treated the audience to a final energetic performance of ‘I want to dance with somebody’ which had everyone dancing and clapping again. Personally, my favourite soloist was the 10-year-old actor playing Fletcher, whose presence was both cute and refreshing. He performed a couple of numbers with his stage mum Rachel to the complete delight of the audience. When reading other reviews of this show, I was surprised his presence wasn’t really acknowledged, as he definitely came across as the audience’s favourite during the final bows on this night. I would recommend this musical to anyone; it might appeal more to females than the average bloke, but I believe the latter would also find it highly enjoyable.
Kat Wagner holds a degree in International Journalism from LJMU and currently works as a Learning & Development Officer for Peterborough City Council. She enjoys West End musicals, reading horror novels and walking.
The Bodyguard is now booking until March 2014, with Beverley Knight and Tristan Gemmill joining the cast in the lead roles this month.