Theatre Review: The Bodyguard

Date Posted: 06/12/2012

Pictured: Heather Headley as Rachel Marron, the 'Queen of the Night'. (Photo credit: Paul Coltas).

The latest motion picture turned musical to arrive in the West End, Rebekah Tailor reviews The Bodyguard.

The show summed up in one sentence… A thrilling stage adaptation of the 1992 hit film, combining romance, suspense and some belting performances of Whitney Houston’s greatest hits.

Who should see it? Anyone group travellers who liked the original Warner Bros film will enjoy seeing it brought to life on stage. It’s also a must-see for Whitney Houston fans.

She’s a six-time Grammy Award-winning Oscar-nominated superstar, he’s a former Secret Service agent turned professional bodyguard; two individuals from separate worlds, who fall in love after he’s hired to protect her from the threat of an obsessive fan come stalker.

If it’s good enough for Hollywood, it’s good enough for the West End; and this latest motion picture turned musical sees Heather Headley and Lloyd Owen paired in the roles made famous by Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner in the 1992 Warner Bros film.

Brought bang up to date by director Thea Sharrock, The Bodyguard pretty much stays true to its original storyline, albeit with a few more classic Whitney tracks thrown in for good measure. And for me, it’s the soundtrack which makes the show; although equally, there will be others who will write it off for the same reason.

Cramming 15 of Houston’s greatest hits into the two-and-a-half-hour running time, the score is a spine-tingling mix of soul, pop and contemporary R&B belted out in true diva style by Tony Award-winner Heather Headley, supported by the fantastic voice of Debbie Kurup, who plays Nicki Marron. Highlights include a hair-raising duet of Run to You, I Have Nothing, and So Emotional, all featured in the first act.

There are times when the songs take over the storyline which could be tenuous; however each number is incredibly well-performed and does nothing to hinder the overall pace of the show.

Making her West End debut, Heather Headley as Whitney Houston - oh wait, Rachel Marron - is without doubt the ‘Queen of the Night’; her honeyed tones, dazzling smile and sheer presence sealing her star status. It takes some time for ‘The Bodyguard’ Lloyd Owen to connect with the audience, although this could be attributed to the detached nature of his character, Frank Farmer. His karaoke rendition of power ballad I Will Always Love You soon resolves this, and by the end of act one, Owen has his audience completely on-side.

The show evolves through a series of concert-style performances, and the audience is made to feel a part of the spectacle, particularly during the climaxing Oscars scene.

Alternating between the privacy of Rachel’s mansion with its billowing curtains, and the bright lights of her public appearances; the threat of ‘The Stalker’ (played by Mark Letheren) is ever-present as he goes from a voice in a letter veiled behind a projection screen, to a hooded figure obscured by a crowded nightclub, to a physical presence in Rachel’s home.

Maintaining suspense throughout, there are some incredibly tense scenes, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. As well as sustaining the pace of the show, this also ensures there’s never a dull moment.

In theory, The Bodyguard has many of the ingredients of a West End hit: romance, suspense, heart-stopping scenes, a dazzling leading lady, plus an emotive mix of power ballads and punchy dance tunes. In reality, it falls just short of expectation; striving for but never quite hitting the high notes. Perhaps it’s the stigma of yet another Hollywood hit attempting to tread the boards, or maybe it just tries too hard.

Nevertheless, it’s a new musical to quench the thirst of theatre goers after a dry summer, and although it won’t be everyone’s tipple of choice, for others - and Whitney Houston fans in particular - it will go down a treat.

The Bodyguard is currently booking at London’s Adelphi Theatre until 27th April. Performance times are Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm with Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 3pm. Groups of six or more can take advantage of discounted rates at Monday to Thursday performances.

For further group travel information visit www.thebodyguardmusical.com.

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