Review: The Bodyguard

Posted by Matt Bourne on 02:29 with No comments
The Bodyguard - Adelphi Theatre, London

Aiiiiiiiiiii ee Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii *Breath* Will always luuuuurvveee Yoooooouuuuu. Probably the single most recognisable song from a movie, The Bodyguard now makes it's way to the stage in a brand new adaptation of the 1992 movie of the same name that starred Whitney Houston & Kevin Costner.

The Bodyguard is latest musical to be passed off as a 'Jukebox' Musical, however with shows such as Dirty Dancing and Singing In The Rain hitting the theatre, maybe a new Movie Musical classification should be used. Following the plot of the movie and for those for you who haven't seen it, the story goes like this:

Frank Farmer (Llloyd Owen) a bodyguard for hire, is drafted in by an old friend, Bill Daveny (Ray Shell) to protect his client, Oscar nominated, multi-Grammy winner Rachel Marron (Heather Headley), who has a stalker that she is unaware of that has posted threats to her home and stolen personal items from her changing room at a recent concert. Frank comes in, much to the annoyance of Rachel's current bodyguard Tony (Nicolas Colicos) and her agent Sy Spector (Sean Chapman), where upon Frank soon starts changing the way things are run around Rachel. Rachel's sister, Nicki (Debbie Kurup) immediately takes a shine to Frank, as does Rachel's son Fletcher.

After initially disliking Frank encroaching on her life, she soon too takes to Frank and indeed the two fall in love which breaks Frank's professional code of ethics and makes the job that much harder.

After a close call at an impromptu concert, where once again Rachel's stalker (Mark Letheren) gets to close for comfort, Frank whisks the family away to his fathers log cabin home, by a lake. However, once again the stalker is never too far behind, and this time with tragic consequences. With the Oscars ceremony not too far away, Frank has to deal with his own personal demons if he's to protect Rachel from the stalker once and for all.

The Bodyguard musical begins like a bolt out of a gun, literally. Once the audiences heart rate is calmed down and the story begins proper, it belts into a MTV/XFactor style intro package for Rachel Marron and onto the stage comes Heather Headley to blast you with her amazing voice and therein begins the journey to that ultimate song, that everyone has paid to hear. Heather Hedley fully embraces the soul of Whitney as she gracefully glide across the stage whether it's an uptempo number or power ballad, Ms. Headley knows just what it takes to inhabit the role of Diva, but not in such an arrogant manner that you don't care for her plight.

One of the masterstrokes of The Bodyguard Musical, is to not have the bodyguard sing. (Well kind of), having Lloyd Owen as the stoic, cold as steel, super agent really makes his character that much more convincing as the professional on the sidelines, who can step in to save the day at any moment. In fact just based off this performance, if Daniel Craig wants to hang up the 00 status any time soon then Mr. Owen should be in with a good shout to fill James Bond's shoes.

Of the supporting cast Debbie Kurup is as outstanding as Heather Headley, in fact the show stopper of the night is 'Run to you' a duet sung by Debbie and Heather that is so beautiful, that it gave this reviewer goosebumps. In somewhat of a disappointment Ray Shell doesn't get to use his amazing singing voice until briefly in the final number, which considering his sizable talents in the vocal dept. is an opportunity missed. Talking of opportunities missed, with no disrespect to Sean Chapman, why didn't they try and get Gary Kemp the original Sy Spector from the film to reprise his role in the show?

Mark Letheren deserves special praise too as Rachel's stalker. In what can only be described as 'seriously creepy' he actually sends chills down your spine in several moments in the show when he appears, none more so than when he loads up the laser sight on his gun and takes aim around the audience. It really unnerves you and you will find yourself pinching & telling yourself 'It's not real' In fact Mark is so good he gets roundly booed at the end during the curtain call a sure sign that the audience are glad that his reign of terror is over.

Tim Hatley and Mark Henderson's lighting and production design are immense, and are cleverly deployed, whether you are in the recording studio or at a nightclub, the shifting panels and flooring coupled with the bright concert style lights are as much of the story as the characters. Lawrence Kasdan's (who did the original movies) screenplay is cleverly updated from the 90's to modern day mainly with mentions of social media, but also ironing out some of the original films weaknesses (Such as having a separate stalker & hitman), and made Nicki's role more palatable.

Thea Harrow's direction though is to be celebrated as she creates a tight ship, without it feeling to claustrophobic. The pacing is excellent and the use of songs are perfectly laid out. If there is any complaint it's that the show at times dangerously teeters too close to becoming a homage to Whitney Houston rather than an adaptation of the movie, but that's about the closest you'll get to a criticism.

So how is "I Will Always Love You"? Well, you'll just have to go and see it for yourself to find out, but needless to say that Heather Headley nails it.. and then some. At the end of the show you will be hard pushed to find anyone who is not on their feet at the end giving the cast a richly deserved standing ovation. And if she was still with us Whitney would be definitely down the front leading the applause.

Matt Bourne