Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
Bland And Brilliantly Staged– The Bodyguard
It is four and a half years since I first, and last, saw The Bodyguard on stage and, dare I say it, I am in danger of becoming a fan!
Last night’s musical adaptation of Lawrence Kasdan’s original screenplay – made famous by Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston – still has Alexandra Burke as vocal diva and stalker victime Rachel ‘Whitney’ Marron but, all these months on, the former X Factor contestant has clearly matured as a performer
This felt like an entirely different show to the one I saw in June 2015 when I put the technical team at the centre of my praise and, in that respect, nothing has changed.
This is a brilliant, versatile set and lighting plot which, even director, Thea Sharrock, refers to in her notes as being one ‘that can travel’, her way of saying that it works in any theatre, big or small. And she is right, of course, although it has the potential to be an electronic nightmare. All said, last night was the stuff of dreams thanks to fast moving, well-paced set changes.
It was a slick, tight show beautifully delivered across two hours, leaving the Alhambra’s packed house baying for more. For those who haven't seen it, 'she's' the diva and he's the guy brought in to protect her when threatening letters start to arrive from an infatuated nut case; the bit in between is their love affair!
At the interval one lady commented that Ben Lewis as Frank Farmer had been miscast and was without personality, however, I disagree. Remember the very last scene of the now iconic movie? The camera takes several seconds to pan in on Frank who starts as a distant pinprick before coming into focus as ‘the man in the background’. The implication of the long shot was simple: bodyguards aren’t meant to be seen, they should blend into the wallpaper.
For me Ben Lewis’s strength of character WAS his blandness; that’s the role. The fact that this guy barely sung a note and, when he did he was lousy, but, equally, has played the title role in The Phantom of the Opera, tells you everything you need to know about this performer!
Neither was Burke occasionally flat as she breezed her way through Whitney’s song catalogue – another overheard comment – it was simply that Emmy Willow as her sister, Nicki, was ‘sweeter’ emphasising the two singing styles of two very different but complementary performers. They were both great.
For a moment you did wonder whether the fleeting ‘relationship’ between Farmer and Burke may also have advanced too quickly?
One minute she seemingly hates the guy, the next they in flagrante! However, I would put that down to lack of time rather than lack of direction. Hell, they had to meet, get through 16 songs, win an Oscar and be at the centre of an assassination attempt in just over two hours. They could be forgiven for getting their kit off a bit sharpish!
This is a largely new touring cast which, with few exceptions, is strong, particularly the dance team. The production is beautifully staged with a ‘star’ at its centre, complete with 16 spotlights and a hydraulic platform extending into the audience. If you like ‘king’ performers then I’m sure you’ll love this occasionally noisy but worthwhile musical.
Until December 7th