I’m going to start by laying my cards on the table: I was not a huge fan of The Bodyguard the musical.
What I did like and enjoy was a tribute to Whitney Houston featuring one of my very favourite voices, Beverley Knight.
I know people absolutely love this musical and I desperately wanted to feel the same way but I just didn’t. I came away happy because I saw Beverley Knight and Rachel John perform stunning renditions of classic songs. That was the part I loved.
Beverley Knight (Rachel Marron) is a firm favourite of mine, a position confirmed further when I saw her in Memphis last year. In Memphis her character, her songs and the rest of the cast were all fantastic. In this, she is one of only a couple of standouts, and the beauty of her role is not so much in the acting as it is in the music. She is a star, and she performs the role of a star well. One Moment in Time had me in tears, and I Will Always Love You was breath-taking.
Rachel John (who, in fact, was also in Memphis) takes on the role of Nicki Marron and also has a voice to remember. Run to You was a fantastic duet between the two sisters and one of my favourite moments. I’d say John was the most convincing in terms of her whole role, both the music and the acting – more so than any other cast member.
As for the rest of it? I’m not sold.
The musical is effectively the film but on stage, with a slightly simplified storyline and more songs.
The problem is, it was made for film, and so comes across better that way. Shows like Ghost have made the leap from screen to stage and become their own entity, each fantastic in their own way. For me, this isn’t the case with The Bodyguard.
In addition to this, the acting throughout the first half of Act 1 was really flat – it felt like everyone was marking their positions and no one was fully in character. This picked up after Nicki’s first song in the club, but by then I think I had got a bit disheartened.
I found the riot scene very odd, too. It was a very stylised scene, which is fine but it was completely detached from the rest of the show. There were no other similar elements and the style was very jarring. I also thought it was actually very unclear, and I only knew what was going on because of having seen the film.
My final ‘gripe’ was the bodyguard himself. Frank Farmer is played by Ben Richards, and for me there was none of the intrigue or excitement – I didn’t ‘get’ why Rachel Marron would find him so alluring. He did the strong and silent part well, but not in an attractive or compelling way. His karaoke scene was funny, but felt like a very random scene completely disconnected from the rest of his performance, rather than it being a glimpse into the man behind the strong exterior.
I’ll round off with some more of the elements I did like, though.
The set was great in its simplicity. There were a lot of sets and items altogether, but each individual set had one clear focus point at a time, and it was immediately obvious where you were and what was happening. The screen or wall across the centre of the stage was also cleverly used, half-closed during certain scenes or opening only by sections to reveal different scenes.
I was also really impressed by the lighting. Whether it was the light streaming through the windows in Rachel’s home, or the bright flashes of the opening concert, or the softer lighting of more intimate scenes, it added character to every single scene.
I also thought the show ended brilliantly. They know their audience: people who love the film and/or love Whitney. While the emotional ending of I Will Always Love You is visually spectacular, it was a great idea to round off the bows with a ‘party’ atmosphere. The cast sing and dance to I Wanna Dance With Somebody and the audience were with them every step of the way. We were on our feet and dancing and singing, and I’m pretty sure it would be hard to leave in anything but a good mood.
And that’s the thing, I did leave in a great mood. I know I’ve been pretty negative about certain aspects, but it’s not that I thought it was awful. It simply wasn’t everything I had expected. When so many people adore it, I think I had expected to be the same.
Unfortunately, I didn’t love the show itself.
What I did love was seeing great song after great song performed by two incredibly powerful female voices. Beverley Knight and Rachel John made this show. Without their voices, there wouldn’t be much left for me to enjoy.