The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre
The Bodyguard – the epic romantic film starring the late Whitney Houston – has been penned and produced (with very apt timing given her fairly recent tragic passing) into a show with musical and vocal arrangements by Chris Egan and Mike Dixon. The themes explored in the story include the threat of paparazzi, and the obsessive behaviour of the media which corresponds well with the recent Leveson inquiry. With this, the producers have landed themselves a conscientious, as well as fan-based, audience.
We are introduced to the story (Lawrence Kasdan’s original screenplay) with a blinding number: an X Factor style rendition of Queen of the Night with Heather Headley bouncing on stage as superstar Rachel Marron with immense energy and confidence. The lighting and sheer power of the orchestra do take away from her voice so you become pulled into the show immediately before being allowed to hone in on the exquisite vocal technique this performer possesses. Having been a part of the original Broadway cast of The Lion King, playing Nala, you expect nothing less from Marron. To describe her renditions of I Will Always Love You and her part in Run to You as anything less than mesmerising would be a crime.
Her sister (played by Debbie Kurup) breezes soulfully through Saving All My Love For You and her acting performance is solid; the script just leaves you wanting more meaty scenes for the actress rather than her ill-timed “photo-bombing” of every moment shared between Frank (RADA trained, Lloyd Owen) and Rachel.
Owen has a strong, impassive and elusive stage presence and finds his power in his stillness. His accent is impeccable (which cannot be said of the supporting ensemble’s who have a tendency to slip) and the actor holds his own, even in his attempt at I Will Always Love You as virtually spoken, completely appropriate to character, in a downtown karaoke bar. Owen and Headley’s chemistry is obvious, which is lapped up by an enthused audience.
The piece is playing to its target audience – the Whitney fans and the film nuts – particularly with the usage of the movie footage in between particular scenes. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than it is, which is welcoming. The set is technically challenging, but on a visually simplistic scale. The moveable screen that shuts off corners of the stage to evoke intimacy and personableness is very creative, and the decor of scenes matches: set designer Tim Hatley’s vision impresses.
Arthur Pita’s choreography isn’t spellbinding, but is at least committed. A good tango sequence appears in Act One that is impassioned. In group numbers, dancer Ashley-Jordan Packer’s intriguing face has to be noted; he can’t help but upstage with his features and presentation. It’s a shame the ensemble took so long to kick off in the energy stakes. It wasn’t until Act Two that individuals started to really shine and connect with those beyond front row.
Running at 2 hours and 25 minutes, it’s a worthwhile watch and a grand spectacle visually and acoustically. With some more inspired ensemble members the show would steal hearts. It’s a promising musical, and I hope it’s allowed its fair run in the West End.
The Bodyguard is at the Adelphi Theatre’s website now. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.