‘The Bodyguard’, starring Alexandra Burke, is one of the most entertaining nights you can have at the theatre, says David Mullane.
Director Thea Sharrock, a celebrated West End and Broadway theatre director, known for her work on such shows as Equus with Daniel Radcliffe, does a bang-up job bringing The Bodyguard to life on stage. The pace is a little choppy at the top of the show, while Sharrock gets through a lot of plot-establishing scenes, but it settles down nicely before quickening in the second act towards the thrilling finale. Even when it’s a little off-kilter, the show is still an exciting production and Sharrock uses all the theatrical toys at her disposal to entertain and stir.
The film was written by Lawrence Kasdan, known to many for his screenwriting credits on the Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises, and he sure knows how to write a good thriller. While you may think you know the story well, Alexander Dinelaris, who recently won an Oscar for his screenwriting work on Birdman, has adapted Kasdan’s work for the stage in a new way, subtly setting the action in the modern day and adding some fresh twists to the tale to keep you guessing till the curtain drops.
Alexandra Burke makes for a great lead, Rachel Marron, although you can tell that she’s reserving her full vocal power in the first act, waiting to unleash it for the second act’s big, triumphant numbers. It’s an incredibly demanding role to play, previously attempted by performers such as Heather Headley and Beverley Knight, both of whom have spoken of the pressures of performing in Houston’s shadow, particularly since her death. Burke, The X Factor winner and Brit Award nominee seems to relish the role, however, and this enthusiasm excuses her slightly schlocky acting.
Stuart Reid is a fine facsimile of Kevin Costner as Frank Farmer and his onstage work is relatively easy, primarily tasked with looking handsome, looking concerned and sometimes grabbing Rachel and whisking her away.
Melissa James plays the role of Nicki Marron, Rachel’s jealous sister, wonderfully and she has a sweet voice which goes toe to toe with Burke’s when it comes to the lofty high notes. Another noteworthy cast member is the young boy who plays Fletcher, Rachel’s son, who oftentimes steals the show from his adult co-stars.
The musical bumps up the already brilliant film soundtrack by adding in a number of other Houston hits and, combined with lots of pyrotechnics and extravagant choreography, turns the musical into a full-on music concert, at times. At other times, the thriller aspect of the story takes centre stage and the staging and direction of these moments provide genuine jumps and thrills.
To enjoy The Bodyguard, you need to accept two things. Firstly, no one will ever do Whitney as well as Whitney did Whitney. Secondly, this production does not have any grand ambitions to be an elevated work of high-art. It’s a pop culture, low-brow and, at times, tasteless adaptation of an already cheesy film – but it’s such a fun, intoxicating and even moving production and one of the most entertaining nights you can have at the theatre.
The Bodyguard runs until July 29. Tickets available from Bord Gais Energy Theatre.
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