Theatre Review: THE BODYGUARD – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Alexandra Burke in THE BODYGUARD. Photo Paul Coltas

Alexandra Burke as Rachel Marron in THE BODYGUARD. Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

Best described as a cross between a pop concert, a musical and a night at the movies, THE BODYGUARD is an adrenaline-fuelled stage version of the hit 1992 film

4 out of 5 stars

Following her triumphant West End run and sell-out 2015 UK tour, Alexandra Burke returns to the role of Rachel Marron in award-winning musical THE BODYGUARD.

Based on the 1992 hit film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, THE BODYGUARD tells the story of superstar Rachel Marron who is left fearing for her life when an unknown stalker pursues her and her family in sinister fashion. Her manager hires former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, to protect her and despite their initial clash of heads, Farmer soon becomes an integral part of Rachel’s inner circle. As they spend more time together, client and protector become closer still.

Opening with a bang – literally – before exploding into a powerful, concert-style performance of QUEEN OF THE NIGHT, THE BODYGUARD is an adrenaline-fuelled show is best described as a cross between a pop concert, a musical and a night at the movies.

Making the most of Tim Hatley’s ever-changing sliding-door set, Mark Henderson’s versatile lighting design and Chris Egan’s slick orchestrations, director Thea Sharrock directs this romantic thriller with skill and pace, emphasising the moody and menacing aspects of the plot to great effect.

Alexandra Burke and Emmy Willow in THE BODYGUARD. Photo Paul Coltas

Alexandra Burke and Emmy Willow in THE BODYGUARD. Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

Reprising her role as the leading lady, Alexandra Burke gives a credible performance as the singer whose life is on a knife-edge. Her performance is as poised and powerful, while her impressive vocal range and velvety tones make the powerhouse Whitney Houston tracks seem effortless to the X-FACTOR winner.

Ben Lewis delivers a calmer and more controlled performance as Frank Farmer. While his chemistry with Burke isn’t quite as sizzling as that of Houston and Costner’s, the pair do a great job of breathing new life into the film’s classic scenes, particularly the club sequence in which Farmer saves Rachel from the clutches of her suitably creepy stalker.

Elsewhere, Emmy Willow comes close to stealing to show as Nicki Marron as Rachel’s slightly bitter sister, her solo performance of SAVING ALL MY LOVE FOR YOU standing out as a highlight, while Phil Atkinson is suitably creepy as Rachel’s unknown stalker lurking in the shadows.

Phil Atkinson in THE BODYGUARD. Photo Paul Coltas

Phil Atkinson in THE BODYGUARD. Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

Like the film, some elements of THE BODYGUARD are a little cheesy in parts, most notably the use of video projection, particularly during the finale of I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU which feels decidedly out-of-place. A couple of scene transitions also feel a little rushed at times, Sharrock keen to keep this two-hour 25-minute show moving, rather than letting it sit for a while.

But ultimately, this show is all about the music, with Musical Director Michael Riley and his eight-piece orchestra delivering the varied score of power ballads and up-tempo dance numbers with energy and enthusiasm, the whole audience desperate to get up on their feet and party along.

If you’re a fan of the original film or Whitney Houston, you’re sure to enjoy THE BODYGUARD.

THE BODYGUARD runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until 4 January 2020