Photos – Paul Coltas
The Bodyguard is a big show that has a proven record of success, filling theatres since 2012. It is based on the 1992 film with Whitney Houston, whose untimely death gives an added poignancy to the story.
The plot has been reduced to the simplest of stories – a famous star receives threats, hires an extra bodyguard, they fall in love. The story really is very simplistically presented in a manner that sometimes stretches credibility. The bodyguard makes some mistakes with serious consequences, in any real world he would have been sacked early in the proceedings, but here these glitches help the plot along.
While there is more dialogue than in some modern pop musicals it is reduced to functional necessity to help the plot along. There are a few sub-plots that could be developed more, including the relationship between the bodyguard (Benôit Maréchal) and the star’s sister Nicki (Micha Richardson) who lives in her shadow, and the also between the bodyguard and the star’s son Fletcher (Emmanuel Owusu-Boachie). The member’s of the star’s entourage are given a few lines apiece to establish their rather stereotypical characters.
This musical is all about the star, Rachel Marron, and this production is all about the superlative star who plays her, Alexandra Burke. The show starts and finishes with Alexandra singing, and her superb renditions of the Bodyguard score are faultless. The songs include many famous hits but the theme song is the iconic ‘I Will Always Love You’ penned originally like so many fine songs by Dolly Parton. While Alexandra Burke makes the song her own she does reflect the treatment of the song made famous by Whitney Houston.
Rachel is being pursued by an obsessive stalker (Phil Atkinson) who certainly looks the part of a superfit ex-military man who has lost his grip on reality. He pops up from time to time just to remind us what this is all about while we are worrying about the on-off romance between Rachel and Frank Farmer, the bodyguard. The young star Emmanuel is hugely popular with the audience as the star’s son Fletcher, particularly when given a chance to shine with his own song and dance segments. Benôit Maréchal is a very handsome bodyguard, looking like a sophisticated undercover agent rather than a beefcake tough guy and appearing to cope with the fact that everyone wants to fall in love with him.
The staging of this show is big, loud and brash, with lots of flashing lights, shooting flames, gunshots and thumpingly loud music from the stage performers and the behind-the-scenes band. The set has a set of horizontal and vertical shutters that move in and out to create different locations and frame events in different ways, a surprisingly effective tool. So we are transported from the star’s home to various nightclubs, stages and even finally the Oscar ceremony for the dramatic conclusion of the chase.
If you enjoy Alexandra Burke’s singing (and who would not) you will love this show, which gives her a chance to showcase her talent in both acting and dancing as well her musical skills. It has a simple and powerful romance at its heart while also showing the constant drama of a life under deadly threat. It is produced to give you a straightforward and hugely enjoyable evening of live theatre and succeeds admirably. If you want to catch it at Norwich Theatre Royal be quick, there are probably very few tickets left for this lively show.
© Julian Swainson 2019
The Bodyguard, Tuesday 30 April-Saturday 11 May at 7.30pm, and Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Please note there are no Sunday performances. Alexandra Burke will perform the role of Rachel Marron at all evening performances only. Tickets £10-£53.50. Discounts for Friends, Corporate Club, Under-18s, Over-60s and Groups. For more info or to BOOK ONLINE www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk