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.
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