After missing this musical the first time around, I was pleased to have another chance. I admit, I was sceptical about a musical adaptation of the classic 1992 film, but with such a talented singer as Beverley Knight returning to the role, I was prepared to give it a try on its return to London this summer.
The show broadly follows the story of the film. International singer and actress Rachel Marron (Knight) is at the height of her fame when her manager insists they employ a bodyguard due to threats she has received (the extent to which even she isn’t fully aware). That bodyguard is Frank Farmer (Ben Richards). Marron does not want him invading her life and he grows frustrated by her attitude. However, over time a respect and attraction starts to grow between them.
As a musical, the story of The Bodyguard works well and in order to ensure plenty of musical numbers, the songs made famous in the film (including Run To You, I Will Always Love You, Queen of the Night) are also supplemented by others from Whitney Houston’s back catalogue of classics, meaning the evening becomes a true celebration of the late singer’s work, with classics such as One Moment In Time and I Wanna Dance With Somebody right through to the last single she released before her tragic death, Million Dollar Bill.
Story-wise, I was pleased with the choices made overall. The differences to the film on the whole make sense. I won’t spoil them all, but unsurprisingly we don’t have the scene with a boat exploding on the lake in the wood on stage! There is also some streamlining in terms of the villain (with only one here, rather than the film’s twist of the initial crazed fan, not being the one trying to kill Marron), which makes things less complicated for the musical.
The set and staging works well, with some fantastic pyrotechnics for Marron’s concert opening (which interestingly is where they choose to use my favourite song from the film, Queen of the Night), effective, yet simple sets for other locations, such as the Marron house and various dressing rooms. The log cabin set from later on is also very good indeed. Projections are used throughout the show, mainly to show the audience what the stalker is doing at his desk and it is these projections which were the weak link for me, as they tended to come off as a bit cheesy, rather than chilling. They also really do not need the projected montage sequence at the end, which effectively replays moments from the show on the screen, as if some form of music video. I see that that’s what they were going for here, but it just didn’t work for me and was far too cringe worthy!
That slight criticism aside, the biggest assets of the show are the acting and singing talent of the leads. First and foremost Beverley Knight is excellent in a role which is synonymous with Whitney Houston. She is able to play the role of Marron convincingly and crucially has the voice to match. It takes someone with a lot of talent to come on to a stage and give those songs as much as Houston did and Knight succeeds every time. Ben Richards is also very good as Frank Farmer, conveying both his harder edge and softer, more caring side through scenes with her son Fletcher and as the two grow closer. He is also able to bring some humour to the character, particularly in the scene in which Farmer and Marron go on a date (which here is set in a bar on karaoke night, rather than in the restaurant setting of the film), which became one of the show’s highlights for me and was very well received by the audience. Huge praise must also be given to Rachel John, who plays Marron’s sister Nicki. She too has an incredible voice and her duet with Knight is another crowd pleaser.
So, overall I thoroughly enjoyed my night at the Dominion Theatre (my first ever visit there too). I’d been unsure whether the show would ruin my memories of the film, or if I’d find it impossible to look past the original movie and see the story in another medium, but I needn’t have worried. The story works just as well on stage and with such superb vocals from its lead actress, you can’t help but be engaged by it. It’s certainly worth a visit whether you’re a lover of the film, a Whitney fan or someone coming to it fresh and by the final encore you’ll be on your feet dancing and singing along with the rest of the audience!
The Bodyguard continues its run at the Dominion Theatre and is currently booking until 7th January 2017. Running Time: 2 hours 25 mins (including an interval). For more information and availability, (note Beverley Knight does not perform at all performances), visit the website here: http://www.thebodyguardmusical.com/home.php