The Bodyguard Review
In the West End at the moment, there seems to be a pattern appearing. You take a highly successful Hollywood film, use the music from the movie or write some new ones and somehow turn it into a show-stomping musical version. With the likes of GHOST The Musical, Legally Blonde, Dirty Dancing all seeing huge success, then with From Here To Eternity about to open, it really does seem to be the popular formula for musicals in the West End. However, The Bodyguard takes this winning recipe to more spectacular heights and even transcends the smash-hit film staring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston that the musical is based on. Director Thea Sharrock has masterfully shaped and crafted the story, creating a thrilling and dramatic but ultimately entertaining night at the theatre.
We are taken on a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, as the superstar singer Rachel Marron (Heather Headley) is reluctantly obliged to hire a bodyguard to protect her from a sinister stalker. This bodyguard comes in the form of former secret service agent Frank Farmer (Lloyd Owen), who meets his match in Marron, a lady not used to being told what to do. An unlikely relationship blossoms between the protector and his ward, but the unknown stalker has other plans…
Peppered throughout this thrilling story is the whole back catalogue of Whitney Houston classics such as ‘Queen of the Night’, ‘So Emotional’, ‘One Moment in Time’, ‘Saving All My Love’, ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’, ‘Run to You’, ‘I Have Nothing’, ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ and, of course, one of the greatest hit songs of all time – ‘I Will Always Love You’.
There is no denying that these songs really are some of the most energetic and catchy pop songs ever written and they have been cleverly weaved into the narrative of the musical. At times, the numbers come so thick and fast that the story is left on the reserve bench for a while and, with a story that gripping, it seems a shame to stop the forward momentum.
Heather Headley is known the world over as a Tony Award-winning Broadway star, having originated the role of Nala in Disney’s smash hit musical The Lion King. Now Headley has been named a West End star as she gives even Whitney a run for her money when it comes to belting out the numbers. Her rendition of ‘I Will Always Love You’ leaves the audiences’ jaws on the floor. Lloyd Owen looks the part with his war-weary and lined features of a man who has lived enough for several lives. But his part seems to be slightly underwritten, as we never really get to glimpse what lies beneath the cold, gruff exterior.
A special mention must be given for Mark Letheren’s portray of the creepy stalker, seeing as he has absolutely no lines to play with, he still manages to create a collective gasp of horror from the audience whenever he enters. The intensity of his obsession with the singer oozes out into the auditorium in waves of pervy nausea, raising the stakes for everyone involved.
In the world of West End musicals, the sets are nearly always something to be admired. From clever illusions and effects built into the stage design, or realistic scenery masterfully made and painstakingly painted, audiences are astounded every time. Tim Hatley’s ingenious design for The Bodyguard takes this standard and raises the bar even higher. We are treated to sliding screens that act like a camera shutter and focus our attention on chosen moments. The screens move silently and with needle-sharp precision – the timing always perfect as the cast are pushed and pulled into our view. This, combined with Ms Sharrock’s use of filmic projection thrown across the screens, takes theatre the closest it has ever come to becoming a movie itself. This leaves little room for one's own imagination, but the images and pictures created on stage are so detailed that it requires very little effort on the audience’s part – just to sit back and enjoy.
Fans of the film will not be disappointed with this new musical version, nor will newcomers to the story. The whole production is so unbelievably slick and precise; you know you are in safe hands throughout. Plus, with songs to move, excite, titillate and eventually get you dancing in the aisle – what more could you want from a thrilling musical?