You know by the strength of the audience reaction how affectionately a show is welcomed in London and it is safe to say that the return of The Bodyguard to London had a warm reception last night.
Rachel Marron is a world famous singer and seems to have it all. But a stalker is sending her death threats and potentially putting her in danger. Former secret service agent turned personal bodyguard Frank Farmer reluctantly agrees to be her bodyguard and to catch the stalker before he catches them.
Last seen in the West End in 2014 and having just completed a successful UK tour, Thea Sharrock’s production has a wonderful energy about it, particularly during the musical numbers that help to lift what is a not very strong plot, giving characters extra depth that was lacking from the 1992 film.
Of course it helps that the music of Whitney Houston is so iconic and expertly delivered in through the arrangements and performance of Beverley Knight, making a welcome return to the role of Rachel. Knight is certainly a diva, utterly convincing in the way in which she conveys her character’s strength and sassiness at the beginning when she meets Frank to becoming completely vulnerable in scenes such as when Frank breaks things off with her.
Unsurprisingly, it is her with the most pressure: to deliver classic Whitney Houston songs but in a refreshing way. Her performance of ‘I’m Every Woman’ is vibrant and sexy (as indeed the entire show is) while her softer interpretation of ‘I Will Always Love You’ captures the heart of the audience as well as ensuring their attention.
She is more than amply supported by Ben Richards as Frank Farmer, the straight faced bodyguard, who for most of the time seems incapable of showing emotion that when he does it is quite intense. Richards delivers a strong and charismatic performance, proving that he deserves to be a leading man. But there is no doubting the chemistry between him and Knight, which is natural and unforced – but gradually increasingly intense and passionate that is beautiful to watch.
But there are other strong performances to look out for as well. Matthew Stathers as The Stalker is suitably creepy enough, through his mannerisms (as he rarely talks) that become quickly sinister – but it feels as though he could have been used a lot more to drive the sinister nature side to production further levels. Meanwhile, Rachel John as Nikki delivers a sublime performance along with Beverley Knight of ‘Run to You’ that really tears at the heart.
Production wise, the Dominion theatre is the most appropriate theatre for this show to be in as it allows the musical to really dominate the stage. Everything from the projections to the set and costumes by Tim Hatley, really give a sense of glamour of the celebrity world that Frank Farmer is drawn to much to his reluctance.
Yes the plot itself is slightly weak (as seen in the film) and could have incorporated the stalker a lot more but in contrast to the big screen, the stage production offers a surprisingly realistic perspective of a terrifying situation to be placed in. The other thing to note about the production is that the choreography could possibly be a little bit sharper – particularly in number such as the Mayan club mix formed of ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’, ‘Million Dollar Bill and ‘So Emotional’ – which considering it was a party scene felt lacking in intensity and energy.
But overall, this is a solid night’s entertainment. Perfect for a girl’s night out or if you simply want an opportunity to hear Whitney Houston’s songs performed live. Welcome back to London!
The Bodyguard will play at the Dominion Theatre until the 7th January. To book tickets visit: Red Letter Days, Ticketmaster.co.uk, Discount Theatre.com, Last Minute.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.