The Bodyguard The Musical – Review
In 1992 the Bodyguard film was released to mixed reviews. Critics gave it negative reviews. It was nominated for seven Golden Raspberry awards for Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Kevin Costner) and Worst Actress (Whitney Houston). Despite this, the soundtrack album became the second highest-grossing album of all time. I personally loved the film, story and soundtrack. Just because it had had negative reviews doesn’t mean that it wasn’t enjoyable as a film.
The Bodyguard UK Tour
Over the past 40 years, I have seen so many theatrical productions, probably split evenly between west end productions and touring productions in local theatre. One thing that tends to be true is that the touring production is a trimmed down version of the original. Some of this is down to transportation limitations, other reasons are that the stage would need to be relayed to add in all the effects. So when I decided to see The Bodyguard The Musical at the Theatre Royal, my initial preconception was that the show would be limited. Also to give me a little bit more of a clue to the production I listened to the Original Cast Soundtrack on Apple Music. Many of the tracks weren’t in the original film but were Whitney Houston classics. My next thought was that this was a Whitney Houston Tribute Jukebox musical! I went in with low expectation!
As the audience settled down into the seats, I spotted an usher parading a sign “No photography, No Mobile phones”. I think this is standard no in theatres, but this stuck in my mind. She walked to the back of the stalls and BANG! Pitch black, all the lights were out and that single gunshot started the show. Frank Farmer (Ben Lewis – the bodyguard) was on stand framed through a front scrim protecting his client from the freshly gunned down assassin! WOW! The front scrim added a grainy quality, followed by it being used as a full-height projection screen, displaying the accreditations of Rachel Marron (Alexandra Burke) The academy award-nominated Actress and Singer.
WOW… WOW! With in the first few minutes, I was blown away. Everything that I’d worried about before the show was totally thrown out. This already had signs of being one of the best productions I’d seen in a long long time. So far it was following the set up of the film and was very cinematic.
The scrim clears and we’re looking at the Rachel Marron performing for a music video of “Queen of the night”. The song is powerful and the dancing is full of energy. This is also synced with flames shooting up out of the orchestra pit. WOW again! There is nothing missing out of this show even though it is a touring production.
As the story unfolds, Frank Farmer has been asked to protect Rachel Marron as she has been getting threatening letters from an obsessive stalker. Although initially Rachel is oblivious to this and doesn’t feel the need for additional private security. Although everyone around her knows what’s going on, they encourage her to accept the new bodyguard into the team.
Rachel’s sister Nicki (Emmy Willow), in the film is given the role as the star’s PA. In the musical, her character is developed a little further as she sings in a wine bar some evenings. Frank visits her to make sure she returns home safely. I felt this was an important element to add to the story as it shows that her vocal talents are on par (if not better) than her star sister. It is ultimately the jealousy that Nicki has that developed the terms of the story.
The stalker (Phil Atkinson) throughout the show doesn’t say much, but his appearance clearly declares weird obsessive. His appearances are also impeccably timed. As the scenery is changed a gap between screens is enough to catch a flash of him momentarily. If you’ve seen the film you’ll know where the show ends, but I’m not going to spoil it in case you haven’t.
However, I’ll say that the strength of this show is the production quality and story. The staging is cleverly put together to make it look cinematic. There are plenty of scene changes including the log cabin in the woods that Frank visits as a safe retreat. But I think it’s the transitions and framing that make it beautifully visual. The songs don’t feel like they are shoehorned in for no reason and in most aspects are either at a concert, music rehearsal, recording studio or a performance of some kind.