The Bodyguard – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Sandra Callard, November 2019
The Bodyguard was a film released in 1992 and starred Kevin Costner as the eponymous hero and the wonderful Whitney Houston as the threatened singer Rachel. It was a box office smash and the songs from the film are now runaway classics.
A new stage production is on tour starring X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke, who opened previously in the show in the West End and played Rachel in the last tour in 2015. The singer has never bettered her 2009 hit version of ‘Hallelujah’ and the song remains a too-early highlight in her career. Burke has honed her elementary acting skills since then and, along with her impressive voice, gives a credible performance as the singer whose life is on a knife edge. Although she never manages to evince the terror this situation would cause, her performance is strong enough to pass muster.
Not so with the bodyguard himself. Ben Lewis has a distinguished theatre credits list, including playing The Phantom in Phantom of the Opera in the West End, and is a renowned solo artist in his own right. He does not sing in The Bodyguard, and maybe he would have been easier in a musical role, but comes across as rather flat in the role. There is no toughness, no strength or power that the role should display, and certainly no alertness when he is supposed to be on the lookout for a potential killer. The burgeoning love affair between himself and Rachel is not convincing and lacks both power and emotion, and the pairing of the two lacks critical chemistry.
I did, however, like the performance of Emmy Willow, who plays Nicki Marron. She has vitality and presence and a great singing voice. She also pulls off to good effect her sadness when Frank Farmer turns her down, and generates the sympathy of the audience. The supporting cast is good, and I also liked the fleeting glimpses of the potential murderer played with venom and startling good looks by Phil Atkinson. The attempted murder scene is quite impressive as Frank Farmer finally pulls it off.
The saving glory of the show is the music and the songs. Glorious anthems abound, as ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, ‘One Moment in Time’, ‘Greatest Love of All’ and the towering ‘I Will Always Love You’ fill the theatre. It’s at times like this that the wonder of Whitney Houston’s voice is recalled and missed.
Like so many musicals nowadays, The Bodyguard ends with tumultuous noise, blasting songs and music from the show to an almost delirious degree. Everything happens simultaneously; music is loud, singers synthesise together to the most clamorous sound they can produce, and dancers gyrate in a never-ending spiral of movement. The audience is on their feet, singing and dancing in time to the spectacle, and the actual show is forgotten in the hypnotics of the moment. It’s a contemporary ploy that undeniably works and sends the audience into raptures and home with a smile on their faces.
For a show that doesn’t live up to its promise, this at least ensures things end on a high note.