‘Quality-filled night out that keeps audiences coming back for more’: THE BODYGUARD – Touring ★★★★

In Musicals, Opinion, Regional theatre, Reviews, Touring by Olivia MitchellLeave a Comment

Touring – reviewed at the Grand Opera House, Belfast
Guest reviewer: Damien Murray

Literally starting with a bang… before Karen Bruce’s super-charged choreography ensures that its fiery opening number sets the quality bar high for the remainder of the show, this latest touring production of the ever popular musical is another winner.
This romantic thriller, peppered with some of the best of Whitney Houston’s hits, is back in town for its third sell-out run in recent years … and it is easy to see why.

Offering the right balance of romance, suspense, dance, humour and music, this award-winning musical based on Lawrence Kasdan’s blockbuster film, which starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, gives audiences everything they want wrapped up in a quality-filled ‘night out’ to keep them coming back for more.

For those who are unfamiliar with the successful film, the story centres around singing superstar and budding film star, Rachel Marron, and her changing relationship with personal bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who has been hired by her manager to protect her after a series of threatening notes have been found.

Many people go to this show only to hear the music as the plot has been criticised for being too far-fetched, but, sadly, stars with stalkers of some degree or another are more common than one might think. As someone who was once involved in protecting a performer from a stalker, I could really identify with the storyline here (although my experience was without the romantic elements of this piece!).

Played out on Tim Hatley’s clever and ever-changing sliding-door set, which not only aids the seamless flow of the show but also reinforces the ever-changing situation of the gripping story-line, this is a well-paced production, which makes effective use of projections.

Yet again, the star of this show is former X-Factor winner, Alexandra Burke, in the role of the controlling diva-style star, Rachel Marron, and – having recently performed in such musicals as Sister Act, Chess and Chicago and having been so successful in television’s Strictly Come Dancing – it was an even more confident and experienced performer this time that filled both Marron’s shoes and the auditorium with great vocals in Houston’s many hits.

Playing opposite Burke as her equally controlling, bodyguard, Frank Farmer, Benoit Marechal was a much calmer and more controlled character who took his job very seriously. So, the karaoke scene was nice in that it showed a different side of his character while providing a degree of humour to lighten the mood of the piece.
Although I didn’t get any sense of fear from Phil Atkinson’s chilling character in his early appearances (maybe due to his direction), the sinister stares of the stalker became appropriately more threatening and unsettling as the show progressed and Atkinson developed into a truly menacing stalker, especially when he rose from the orchestra pit in his final scene.
Resentful of her life playing second-fiddle in the shadow of her successful sister, Micha Richardson was impressive as the talented, but jealous, sister, Nicki; her vocal talent getting a solo chance to shine in Saving All My Love For You.

Musical director, Michael Riley, and his eight-piece orchestra did wonders in supplying such a big and full sound for the varied score of power ballads and up-tempo dance numbers, while Mark Henderson’s versatile lighting designs complemented all aspects of the production, and both combined – especially Riley’s perfect incidental music and Henderson’s wonderful use of white light effects – to heighten tension and suspense at appropriate moments of the show.
Thea Sharrock’s direction was also spot-on throughout, but particularly in emphasising these elements of what is, after all, a thriller. A good example of this was the use of slow motion and freeze action in the club scene and at the awards ceremony.
What surprises me is that, despite being one of the few who do not even like the music of Whitney Houston (really!), this is my third time seeing this show … and, thanks to high production values and talented performances, my third time enjoying the productions.
Musical highlights included: I’m Every Woman and How Will I Know?, while the defining moment in the story was captured during One Moment In Time and Burke’s perfectly staged finale song, the emotionally-charged rendition of I Will Always Love You, proved to be the undoubted show-stopper ahead of the full company mega mix encore.
Overall, power ballads combined with powerhouse performances and strong choreography to make this a truly powerful production.
The Bodyguard runs at the Grand Opera house until 16th February 2019
photo credit: Paul Coltasp.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 10.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px ‘Times New Roman’; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

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Olivia Mitchell
Always surrounded by music from a young age, Olivia Mitchell is currently completing a degree in Classical Singing. To honour her passion for musical theatre in particular, in 2015, she started her blog Rewrite This Story, where she reviews shows, interviews performers and writes about all things theatrical. She tweets via @RewriteThisWeb.
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Olivia Mitchell on FacebookOlivia Mitchell on InstagramOlivia Mitchell on PinterestOlivia Mitchell on TwitterOlivia Mitchell on Youtube
Olivia Mitchell
Always surrounded by music from a young age, Olivia Mitchell is currently completing a degree in Classical Singing. To honour her passion for musical theatre in particular, in 2015, she started her blog Rewrite This Story, where she reviews shows, interviews performers and writes about all things theatrical. She tweets via @RewriteThisWeb.