REVIEW: The Bodyguard – Mayflower Southampton 18/02/2015
Posted by Andy Goddard
Posted in News
If you love Whitney Houston and/or her songs, you’re going to love this show.
Likewise if you’re a fan of Alexandra Burke, winner of the 2008 X Factor and with a formidable track record in the music industry, you’re definitely going to be amongst the standing ovation that The Bodyguard will undoubtedly receive by audiences who are treating it a bit like a concert with a theme.
The clue is in the title – The Bodyguard (The Musical) – this is a colourful, energetic and thoroughly enjoyable musical-cum-pop-concert-cum-Houston-tribute.
The plot, like the film upon which it is based, is thin at best: quiet, almost sullen/rude private bodyguard Frank Farmer (with personal baggage) is assigned to protect spoilt, talented, famous singer Rachel Marron from The Stalker who is ex military and hell bent on killing off said singer.
Rachel’s sister Nicki lives in her shadow, is equally talented but minus the success and is incensed when Farmer and her sister, after an initial cold start, become an item.
If you are familiar with the 1992 film starring Whitney and Kevin Costner, you will be aware of the plot foremost and the music as a pleasurable backdrop; the stage version reverses this to give the music centre stage and the storyline a definitely supporting role.
So much so that I could take neither the Bodyguard nor the Stalker very seriously. They both took on semi-comic and faintly panto-esque good guy/bad guy roles, emphasised by the play-it-out-front style of acting they both adopted.
Stuart Reid as Farmer did his job well but for me his voice wasn’t right and he was given some lines which made him seem far too Mr Nice Guy.
If you consider that back in the mid-70s, before Mr Costner was offered the role for the film, the part of Farmer was originally written for Steve McQueen you will understand my difficulty in accepting Reid as the cool, quiet, hard man I think Farmer is meant to be.
The choreography and dancing was superb, as you would expect; likewise the lighting, costumes and stage design – a very clever use of horizontal and vertical ‘shutters’ which acted like the iris in a camera to close down and concentrate on a small rectangular portion of the stage to great effect. The multiple scene changes were effortless using this technique and video projection onto a front gauze filled in some of the missing visual gaps to great effect.
It was unfortunate on press night for there to be a local power surge which knocked out some electrical circuits in the surrounding block to the theatre.
This affected the stage lighting and sound which not only prompted an impromptu apologetic appearance by producer Michael Harrison but also added twenty minutes to the first half.
But did this deter our loyal foot tapping and hand clapping audience? Not a bit of it and quite rightly so.
This was a gentle reminder that we were watching live theatre, susceptible to power cuts, illness, injury and technical problems. Probably a bit nerve wracking for the cast and crew but it really didn’t show and nobody seemed to be impatient to leave their seats early at the end, so busy were they clapping and singing along with the music.
For the music is most certainly the star of this show – all the well known numbers are there – I’m Every Woman, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, I Will Always Love You – and so on. In fact there are no less than 16 numbers, most of them sung by Alexandra Burke with more than a nod to the late Ms Houston’s style but adding her own at the same time.
One or two songs are handed to Melissa James, playing Rachel’s sister Nicki and beautifully sung they are too; not surprisingly, Melissa is understudy to Burke (and Zoe Birkett who takes the lead role at matinees and odd performance).
Of course, credit where credit is due: Alexandra Burke’s acting ability – her singing is already renowned and her range and timing amazing – is faultless. For someone who is not formally trained to act, she’s a natural actress. This tour, following three months of The Bodyguard on the London stage, will not have harmed her career one jot.
All in all, a very, very enjoyable evening out, especially if you are a Houston/Bodyguard/Burke fan. If you love all three, don’t miss this one. Plays until Saturday 28th when the show moves to King’s Theatre, Glasgow and onward on its 18 venue tour.
A review by David Cradduck