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Review: The Bodyguard, the musical

In 1992, Rachael Marron was brought to life as one of the most iconic divas on the silver screen in the 90s by, funnily enough, one of the world’s most iconic divas of all time – Whitney Houston. “The Bodyguard” was a huge commercial success, grossing over US$400 million worldwide and its soundtrack became the biggest-selling of all time, with over 45 million copies sold. Then, since 2012, not long after the untimely death of Whitney, a musical based on the film (that had been in production for several years already) directed by Thea Sharrock (the 2007 adaptation of “Equus” starring Daniel Radcliffe) and produced by David Ian (“Cats” and “The Sound of Music” among countless others) and Michael Harrison, was launched.

Tony award-winning actress and singer Heather Headley originally starred in the lead role and the musical was a critical and box office success, which continued after British soul singer Beverley Knight took over as Miss Marron and Tristan Gemmill replaced Lloyd Owen as Frank Farmer in September 2013. But how did Beverley fair in her first major acting role and her West End début and how does the musical compare to the film? We recently went along to see the show in London’s Adelphi Theatre on The Strand to see for ourselves and were pleasantly surprised that are high expectations were met.

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The storyline is very similar to the original film, with a few minor changes – the predominant ones being a small shift in the roles Rachel Marron’s sister, Nikki (experienced theatre actress Carole Stennett) and her stalker/assassin plays (the rather ruggedly handsome Michael Rouse). In addition to songs from the film’s original soundtrack, a number of other well-known Whitney Houston songs are included in the production and are cleverly weaved into the narrative in one way or another, like “Saving All My Love for You”, “All The Man I Need” and “One Moment in Time”. The musical also manages to give this romantic thriller a comedic and light-hearted edge that wasn’t in the film, which was perhaps aided by cheeky and more adult-based humour and one-liners and the introduction of more fun and uptempo Whitney songs such as “I’m Your Baby Tonight”, “How Will I Know” and the show’s closer “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”.

While the whole cast, bar Beverley, consists of seasoned screen and stage actors, singers and dancers and none of them, including Beverley are bad actors at all, we were a little unsettled by some of their overly fake American accents, though this thankfully did not take anything away from their overall performances. Beverley, who has never really acted before, did surprisingly well in fulfilling the role of Rachel Marron and taking over from Heather; we already know she can sing, but her acting was pretty impressive too, particularly as we see her stepping out of her usual humble and down-to-earth persona and become a world-class diva (in fact, very similar to Whitney, whose acting début was in the film). And sing she does. Known for her combined rich and beautiful tone, extensive range, vocal power, agility and control, technical skill, intricate musical and lyrical interpretations, and the soul and emotion she put into her songs, Whitney will forever be hailed as one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time. But Beverley is most certainly a vocal force to be reckoned with herself, possessing similar traits Whitney had and showcasing them brilliantly throughout the show. Not only does she retain the integrity, meaning and emotions of the original recordings but she also puts her own little twist to a few of them as well, some of which are given a slight re-arrangement to suit a musical setting and a theatrical performance – and she does so without a missing a note, a riff, run, trill or a beat. Carole Stennett also proves she’s a fine singer as she steps into the spotlight on a few occasions to sing solos and duet with Beverley, the latter of which showed great vocal precision and beautiful harmonies from the pair of them.

Though we felt (in a similar way to the film) that the story did lack a bit of depth and detail and there was little character improvement (except for Nikki Marron), it was definitely compensated by its slick direction and production, a great all-around cast and ensemble and of course its musical numbers that at times made it feel more like we were at a concert than a stage show. It was however, a shame that so many other great Whitney songs that could have been included were not and that there is no cast recording available to buy, though despite this we were left with a rush of tingles up our a spines and an energy that the cast gave us as they sang and danced their way through some of the biggest and catchiest pop songs of the past 30 years. And we’re sure Whitney Houston would have enjoyed it too if she was still alive to see it today.

“The Bodyguard” is currently taking bookings until 30th August and Beverley Knight will finish her run on the show on 31st May, with former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke taking over on 2nd June. The Adelphi Theatre is located on The Strand in the Westminster area of London near Covent Garden and is around a mile from Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. The area is not far at all from a number of London’s top gay bars and clubs, so is perfect for those wanting a night out in the city after watching the show. Check out our guide to gay London and see a full list of London’s gay scene, as well as view our 300 properties there right here.

Overall rating: 4/5
Story: 3/5
Music: 5/5
Vocals: 5/5
Acting: 3/5
Choreography: 4/5
Production: 4/5

City Spotlight: Amsterdam

Amsterdam is widely known as one of Europe’s – and the world’s – most tolerant countries, particularly when it comes to sexuality, sex and of course most controversially, drugs. However, while that may create the idea that it is a dirty, seedy place in some people’s minds, in reality it isn’t – it’s vibrant, diverse and actually a clean and friendly city. So why travel to Amsterdam? What attracts hundreds of thousands of LGBT travellers to the city every year? Here we’ll tell you why.

Amsterdam

In 2009, Amsterdam became one of the first ever cities to open a separate tourist office for LGBT travellers called “Pink Point” cementing itself as an open and gay-friendly travel destination. It is situated next to the Homomonuent (a rather fitting name and place) – a memorial that opened in 1987 to commemorate the gay men and lesbians as well as bisexuals who have been persecuted because of their sexuality – and is staffed by friendly and knowledgable volunteers with a wide range of information and flyers from local organisations, and has one of the best selections of queer souvenirs and gifts in the country.

The Netherlands as a whole has a big reputation as one of the world’s most progressive countries in regards to LGBT rights. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1811 and it was of course the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001. Amsterdam, like most capital cities however, is where the highest number of LGBT people are living and why wouldn’t they with around 100 bars, clubs, shops, saunas, hotels and restaurants that are gay-owned or gay-friendly? There isn’t really one specific gay area in Amsterdam, but rather everywhere is very integrated and it is all dotted around the city, including Rembrandtplein square, Requliersdwarsstraat, along Amstel, Warmoesstraat and near the infamous red-light district.

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As well as the Homomonuent, other notable places to visit for sightseeing in Amsterdam include the world famous Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, the 17th Century network and canals that meander through the city, the Defence Line of Amsterdam (both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and dare we say, for those who aren’t into traditional culture and history – the city’s many cannabis “coffee shops”, which attract nearly 4 million international visitors alone every year. There are also six other museums in the country’s top 15 that are located in Amsterdam.

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Some of the city’s most notable LGBT events in the year include a gay and lesbian film festival Roze Filmdagen takes place every March, a TranScreen festival in May and the Gay & Lesbian Summer Festival, which also shows films, is in July.  Amsterdam Gay Pride starts on the last week of July (26th) and carries on till the first weekend of August (3rd), which is undeniably the city’s biggest gay event on the calendar, though for those who are into something a little different there is also the Fetish Pride from 29th May to 1st June and Leather Pride takes place from 23rd-26th October. There is also the Milkshake Festival – a very popular event that isn’t about milkshakes, but rather dance and club music, turning the city into one huge dancehall. It is attended by everyone and anyone and not restricted to or aimed at one particular group of people, so the LGBT and straight communities can come together and celebrate their love of music.

We currently have over 70 properties in Amsterdam ranging from spare guest rooms in people’s apartments or houses, whole properties and rooms in guesthouses and B&Bs – and the vast majority of our hosts are gay or lesbian or LGBT-friendly and situated within or around the city centre. Or if you have a spare room or a property you want to let out to visitors in Amsterdam, you can sign up and become a host here.

What our guests have to say about their hosts and Gay Homestays

Gay Homestays has built itself a great reputation within the global LGBT community, especially in the gay travel accommodation market. Below are select few testimonials from satisfied guests who have stayed with some of our top hosts around the world and had positive experiences using Gay Homestays as a source for gay accommodation so you can see for yourself:

CARL1/1 in Rome

“I’ve used the Gay Homestays services a few times during the last months, and I should say that it’s been great. I’ve felt like home in every place I’ve been, including this one. And will never hesitate in using it again. Carlos”

CRUG1/1 in London

“Gil is an exceptionally kind, considerate and thoughtful host who is never short of a friendly smile and positive conversation. The bed was very comfortable and there was plenty of storage for my clothing. This was my first experience of using Gay Homestays and meeting Gil has ensured that it won’t be my last! James”

THOF1/1 in Barcelona

“I had the pleasure of staying at this apartment in Barcelona with my partner who was celebrating his 40th Birthday.  The host was very welcoming and was extremely organised. The location is ideal for being in the middle of the gay areas. This was our first stay in somebody’s home through Gay Homestays and I must say we were pleasantly surprised.  I would very happily stay here again and would happily recommend Francois and his home to anyone planning a short stay in Barcelona. Well worth a visit. Thank you 🙂 Shane”

PAPN1/1 in New York

“Our stay with Nicolas was most memorable. He is an absolutely gracious host who spared no effort in making sure that we were comfortable. The apartment is superb and we felt very special to share it with Nicolas. Thank you also to Gay Homestays for taking care of our booking so efficiently. Merlin”

OZBM1/5 in Istanbul

“It was my first time using Gay Homestays and I was hesitant but it turned to be a great place, great hospitality and the best thing, a very friendly host. I am definitely recommending this lovely place 🙂 Chai”

COPC1/2 in Devon

This was the first time we’d used Gay Homestays to book a short break, so didn’t know what to expect. We needn’t have worried – all was professionally organised and our host Christopher was very welcoming and helpful and we were made to feel as if this were part of our home too! Didn’t use the heated jacuzzi but were free to do so if we wished.

Lovelly garden in a location tucked away and so very peaceful with ample parking and yet only about 5-10 mins walk to or from the town centre and with a slightly longer walk to the train station, we went to Exeter by train very easy and cheaper than paying for the parking there!

Great location is you want to explore East Devon, Dorset, Somerset or a quick trip down to the coast. Would definately stay here again.  Simon & Ian”

PHIB1/1 in Paris

“My partner and I just got back from a trip to Paris. It was the second time we used the services of Gay Homestays. We stayed with Philippe in Paris, for three days. It was a great experience and a more wonderful person and host is difficult to find. We will definitely continue to use Gay Homestays for our trips. Peter”

RODJ1/2 in Valencia

“This was my first time using Gay Homestays and I was very impressed from the start. My accommodation in Valencia was fantastic- very central, clean and tidy, and with a friendly host who gave me info on local gay bars (all nearby), beaches, etc. He was professional in manner and left me to my own accord.

The room has a lovely balcony overlooking the street with a nice bar on the corner nearby where I ate in the evenings. It was so hot during my stay in Valencia the good quality fan secured to the wall helped circulate the air without making a constant noise. There is a TV in the room for those who want it with many TV and radio channels. I would definitely recommend this accommodation. Daniel”

HILB1/1 in Manchester

“Staying with Brian was a wonderful experience. He is a gr8 guy. His apartment was in a building similar to one you would find in Tribeca in NYC. The place was beautiful and very convenient. I would definitely stay with him again if I should return to Manchester. This was my first experience with Gay Homestays and I will certainly use this again to find a place to stay. Jack”

ROMC1/2 in Gran Canaria

“My partner and I stayed with Marcial and Roman last week on our first trip to Gran Canaria. We liked the idea of staying with a local couple instead of a normal hotel and also liked the the look of the property from the website.

When we arrived, our hosts could not have more welcoming. Our room was perfect. The bathroom was also great. The rest of the house and garden were even better than the photos showed and Roman and Marcial encouraged us to make ourselves at home which we did straight away. They made us feel so at home that we felt like we staying with friends for the week.

As we hadn’t been to the island before, they gave us good advice about what to see and do as we wanted to see some of the island as well as the beaches and the Yumbo Centre!

Breakfast was laid out for every morning which including fresh homemade bread and a variety of pastries each day as well as fruit, cereal, yoghurt etc.
The dogs Moro and Tamo were also very welcoming and very cute. We would highly recommend this homestay and hope to return ourselves in the future.
Stuart & Andy”

Gay Homestays’ Top 10 Halloween songs

So, it’s that ghoulish time of the year again – 31st October, a.k.a. All Hallow’s Eve (or Halloween) so we thought we’d compile a list of our top favourite 10 Halloween songs or songs that remind us of this fun annual event and are some of the most popular you’d hear at a Halloween party. Some of the songs are perhaps quite predictable (yet still classic!) but we’ve also included a few of them which you probably wouldn’t have thought of off the top of your heads. Check them out below and let us know what you think of our list:

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10) “Better The Devil You Know” by Kylie Minogue

This is obviously not a Halloween song but we thought we’d add Kylie to this list as we’re sure the gay community will approve of this Queen of Pop being mentioned just for the song’s apt title!

9) “Voodoo People” by The Prodigy

The Prodigy were well-known for their crazy songs and videos that resembled “trippy” visions or even nightmares and “Voodoo People” is a great example of this and probably one of the lesser-known Halloween songs people could think of.

8) “Bat Out Of Hell” by Meat Loaf

“Bat Out Of Hell” may actually be a song about love but much of the lyrics, the composition of the song itself and the video are very much Halloween-themed.

7) “Highway To Hell” by AC/DC

Another song that isn’t related to Halloween – “Highway To Hell” apparently reflects AC/DC’s gruelling touring schedules – but the heavy rock genre sound and lyrics could resemble this annual festival.

6) “Monster Mash” by Bobby Boris Pickett

A firm holiday favourite that surely needs no more introduction as one of the most popular Halloween songs of all time?

5) “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.

Taken from the blockbuster film of the same name, “Ghostbusters” is another of the most famous Halloween songs ever that we couldn’t not add to this list.

4) “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell/Beatfreakz

Originally released in early 1984, a couple of months after Michael Jackson’s smash hit “Thriller” (MJ also provides backing vocals on this song), “Somebody’s Watching Me” managed to cement itself as a timeless Halloween song. The Beatfreakz version – which samples the chorus – was also popular when released in 2006 and the video pays homage to Michael’s “Thriller”.

3) “The Time Warp” from “The Rocky Horror Show”

We don’t think this iconic Halloween-themed song from one of the most iconic Halloween films of all time needs more of a reason or description as to why we’ve added to our list, do you? Though, we wish we could have included more than just this one…

2) “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Perhaps one of the most well-known Michael Jackson and Halloween songs ever, “Thriller”‘s lyrics, composition and music video were like that of a short Halloween horror film and nearly always tops every list of top Halloween songs. However, while it’s great, we’ve put it at No.2 – just to be different…

1) “I Put A Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins/Nina Simone/Bette Midler in “Hocus Pocus”

Originally written and performed by rhythm and blues musician Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 1956, “I Put A Spell On You” has been named one of the most iconic and inspirational songs to shape rock ‘n’ roll and soul music. It has since been covered by numerous other artists, most notably jazz legend Nina Simone in 1965 and Bette Midler’s comical yet equally brilliant version from the film “Hocus Pocus” in 1993.

Do you like or agree with our list? What songs do you think should have made the cut? Let us know in the comments section below!

Top 10 singles from 10 Mariah Carey albums

Today marks the 20th anniversary since the release of one of Mariah Carey’s biggest singles (well, one of her many hit singles), “Dreamlover”, taken from her most successful album, Music Box. The song became her 7th Number One single (of her overall 18 chart-toppers) in the US and the album has sold an astounding 30 million copies worldwide. Mariah is still one of the world’s top-selling artists of all time, especially for a female, with an estimated 250 million records sold, so what better way to celebrate her achievements and this landmark date as well as to anticipate the release of her upcoming fourteenth studio album, Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, with a rundown of 10 of her best singles from 10 of her albums – one for each? Albums not included in this are her two Christmas albums, the soundtrack to the film Glitter and her as of yet unreleased album.

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“Vision of Love” from Mariah Carey

Her début single, “Vision of Love” immediately secured Mariah her first of many hits and put her on the map as a vocal force to be reckoned with.

“Make It Happen” from Emotions

A tale about her past that tells us of her trying to scrape money together to record a demo, this is Mariah’s “rags to riches” story that is full of gospel gusto.

“Hero” from Music Box

Probably arguably her most popular song to date, “Hero” remains as one of Mariah’s signature songs and is one of the most covered songs of all time on talent shows.

“Fantasy” from Daydream

One of her first forays into full-on R&B music and hip-hop, “Fantasy” helped Mariah shift into the urban music scene with ease.

“My All” from Butterfly

Connecting with her Latin/Hispanic roots, “My All” was a musical masterpiece that had influences of Latin music, used Latin/Spanish instruments and further showed Mariah’s versatility.

“Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” from Rainbow

Mariah released two versions of this Phil Collins classic – a solo version and a duet with Irish boy band Westlife, which was more successful (particularly in the UK) than the first one, giving her her second No.1 single in Britain.

“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” from Charmbracelet

“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” is another cover by Mariah, this time of the song by rock band Def Leppard. This remains one of Mariah’s best covers and one of her first and rare songs that has a rock element to it.

“We Belong Together” from The Emancipation of Mimi

After a shaky few years, “We Belong Together” – a huge torch ballad of a song that was the second single from this album – saw Mariah back in top form and on top of the charts once more and almost beat her own record of the longest-running Number One on Billboard. It also earned Mimi her fifth and sixth Grammy awards.

“I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time” from E=MC²

After many years of sticking to R&B and hip-hop, “I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time” hinted at more pop and soul elements, which Mariah first started off with at the beginning of her career and has been seen by many as a standout track from this album.

“I Want to Know What Love Is” from Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel

Another cover of a rock ballad, Mariah’s version of “I Want To Know What Love Is” adds more gospel influences to the song and dispelled rumours of her voice having suffered a huge decline.

What are your favourite Mariah Carey singles? Let us know in the comments section below!