Thursday, 17 October 2013

Review: The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre

The Bodyguard
Adelphi Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 16th October 2013 

"Not another film being turned into a musical" and "not another jukebox musical" are two phrases I have heard a lot recently. But what I love about Thea Sharrock's smart production of The Bodyguard is that it is not simply the 1992 Oscar nominated Warner Bros. film on stage. It is a strong piece of theatre in its own right.

The Bodyguard is also not a show which just attempts to slot in some famous songs where possible. Whitney Houston's music is mostly performed in context, the lyrics are very apt and actually quite theatrical.

This was my second time seeing The Bodyguard (although first time reviewing the production) which opened in the West End late last year. I must admit that the show is now in much better shape, not only because of the musical's new leading lady, but because the whole spectacle seems far more slick and smooth.

Tim Hatley's big and bold design gives The Bodyguard a very cinematic feel. I'm not usually a fan of projections in theatre, but they are used well in this piece. Scenes change constantly as the action swiftly moves from location to location, it is rather impressive.

The Bodyguard centres around American superstar Rachel Marron. Her team hire bodyguard Frank Farmer to protect the celebrity against a dangerous stalker. At first Rachel doesn't approve of Frank and his ideas. However, she soon warms to him as the pair fall in love. The narrative is very gritty in places, The Bodyguard really isn't your stereotypical happy-snappy musical. The finale is spectacularly fun and you will leave hyped up, but The Bodyguard also has a story to tell.

The scene in which 'The Stalker', played by Michael Rouse, sings while stroking one of Rachel's dresses is a little questionable, but other than that I think the character is incorporated into the piece well; particularly when suspended in the air at the beginning - it's very artistically staged. The ensemble are strong but slightly underused, there are very few company numbers meaning the ensemble don't get to show off properly until the finale.

Tristan Gemmill has joined the cast as Frank Farmer. He strikes the right balance between portraying Frank's cold and caring sides. Debbie Kurup continues to play Rachel's sister, Nicki Marron, her performance earned her an Olivier Award nomination earlier this year. Debbie acts the part well and I love her slightly edgy vocal tone, although on a couple of occasions I thought she might be a little vocally tired, I can't imagine eight shows a week is an easy task.

Of course everybody was at the Adelphi Theatre to see multi award-winning recording artist and soul queen Beverley Knight who has joined the musical as Rachel Marron. Heather who? Whitney who? Beverley plays the role as if every word and song was written for her. She is a star playing a star, and my oh my I certainly felt as if I was in the presence of a star.

Compared to Heather Headley (who originated the role in the West End) Beverley made each song her own in a more subtle way, and I felt as if she made it her own for a reason, not just because she was trying to be different. She graced the stage as if she has been acting for years.

This may be Beverley's first West End musical, but I certainly hope it is not her last. As the soul singer took her bow the audience went crazy and the applause seemed to never end, Beverley looked completely overwhelmed but seemed to soak up the electric atmosphere. I only hope she knows just how incredible she is. The Bodyguard is now Beverley Knight's show and I don't think I will ever be able to see anybody else play the role.

There has never been a better time to see The Bodyguard. If you are looking for an enjoyable evening, but want to see a piece of theatre with a bit of depth, action and excitement then I can think of no better option than The Bodyguard. Whitney Houston's music will always remain timeless, and I can think of nobody who could sing all those iconic numbers better than the phenomenal Beverley Knight. 

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Bodyguard is currently booking at the Adelphi Theatre until 8th March 2014.
Click here to book tickets.

Click here to read West End Frame's recent interview with Tristan Gemmill.

Please note Beverley Knight does not do matinees. She will also not perform between 4th – 5th, 18th - 21st November, 13th – 21st January and 14th – 17th February.

Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

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