The Bodyguard – Review – Hull New Theatre
The Bodyguard – Review
Hull New Theatre, January 2019
by Rachel Howard
From its explosive start right through to its emotional end, The Bodyguard has the sold-out Hull New Theatre audience in total awe. Yes, that’s quite the statement but it’s 100% warranted. This was West End class in my local theatre, and I loved every single second of it.
Based on the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, the musical first opened in the West End in 2012. During its run, it was nominated for four Olivier awards. Basking in its success, the production was then turned into a touring show and embarked on its first outing in 2015. It has been thrilling sell-out audiences all over the world ever since.
For those not familiar with the plot line (where have you been hiding?!), the story follows American singer and single mother Rachel Marron, who is made to take on extra security in the form of former secret service agent Frank Farmer after receiving anonymous threats from a stalker.
The role of Rachel Marron, made famous by the late, great Whitney Houston, is brought triumphantly to the stage by Alexandra Burke. The former X Factor winner (2008) and Strictly Come Dancing finalist (2017) has been involved with The Bodyguard musical since 2014. Her experience, knowledge of the role and passion for the stage come together to produce an absolutely knockout performance. This girl can sing. I mean, really sing. All too often the winners of reality shows have one hit and then disappear into obscurity, but this is not the case for Alexandra Burke. She has made the stage her home and it’s clear to see why. She thrives up there, and the audience feeds off her energy. This isn’t a copycat performance of Whitney Houston either. Of course there are similarities, but she makes the songs her own without losing that magical Whitney sparkle.
Frank Farmer is played by the commanding Benoît Maréchal who brings the same brooding, dark energy to the stage as Costner did to the movie. The chemistry between the two lead characters sizzles and you very quickly find yourself rooting for them, despite Rachel’s diva-esque attitude and Frank’s guarded emotions. To counterbalance the serious side of Farmer, we are introduced to Rachel’s son, Fletcher, played on this night by Jesse Oniha. This is Jesse’s professional debut in a musical and he brings a cheeky, sparky performance to the stage. His singing and dancing combine brilliantly with the experienced cast members. Definitely one to watch for the future…
As in the film, the stalker appears sporadically throughout the show but actually says very little. Words are not needed for this character, brilliantly portrayed by Phil Atkinson. His body language (did someone say body?! – if you’ve seen the show you’ll know what I mean!) and stage presence is enough to make the audience fear his next move and feel genuine concern for Rachel and her family. His singing cameo during the finale is also a great touch.
Speaking of singing, seriously holding her own next to the sheer power of Alexandra Burke is Micha Richardson playing Rachel’s sister, Nicki. This character is perhaps the most complex one in the production. She struggles with her sister’s success, is envious of the bond between Rachel and her son, Fletcher, and her feelings for Farmer cause her to be in a state of turmoil for much of the show. This rollercoaster of emotions is portrayed beautifully by Richardson, whose voice is stunning. Its clarity and ease combines effortlessly with the deep, gravelly soulful Burke, culminating in a superb duet of ‘Run To You’.
The soundtrack is jam-packed with all the Bodyguard classics including ‘Queen of the Night’, ‘I Have Nothing’ and, of course, ‘I Will Always Love You’. If there was ever a perfect ending to a musical this was it – Alexandra Burke absolutely smashing it whilst rising up on an elevated stage to a completely captivated audience. I’m not ashamed to admit a tear may well have rolled down my cheek… but within minutes I was on my feet along with everyone else in the auditorium dancing away in the aisles whilst the cast took their curtain call and Alexandra turned the theatre into something resembling Studio 54 with an awesome rendition of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ – a fitting tribute to Whitney herself.
This is often referred to as a “smash-hit musical” and it’s not hard to see why. If you want to see some serious talent and watch a familiar storyline play out like its the first time you’ve seen it, get yourself to your nearest showing of The Bodyguard – it’ll be a night to remember, I promise.
images: Paul Coltas