#Tweetingit – 5***** A cool, sexy rundown of Whitney Houston’s finest moments, brilliantly staged and set in a world class venue. For what more could anyone ask?
Downsizing a Hollywood movie to the stage is no easy task, but this latest production of The Bodyguard hits the mark with consummate ease. Many will remember the star vehicle featuring Kevin Costner, and a soundtrack that spawned five top 20 singles, including the chart topping million selling smash; I will always love you by Whitney Houston. Logic requires the show to double up as a greatest hits package; but there are only six Whitney songs on the original soundtrack; so ten carefully chosen songs from her back catalogue were added to create a seamless link with a storyline that resonates with those in the public eye.
The story – popstar Rachel Marron is being stalked and receiving death threats; a career defining appearance at the Oscars is under threat and manager Bill Devaney is moved to hire bodyguard Frank Farmer to protect her. Farmer initially encounters resistance from Rachel and her entourage, but the ice gradually melts as she inevitably falls for his charms. Luckily, the show can draw on a beefy screenplay from Lawrence Kazdan, a writer who cut his teeth on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones flicks, adding substance to pop songs that sparkle like a polished diamond.
Director, Thea Sharrock obviously has an eye for cinematic angles, using an excellent set to frame individual scenes – a simple screen mechanism to widen or narrow the focus as necessary. Some nifty video transitions were used to great effect on the intro, which led into the first number, Queen of the Night, which, although stunning, seemed more like a finale in the wrong spot. This quibble was soon buried by a slickly choreographed medley featuring How Will I know, So Emotional and I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Fizzy pop songs aside, it’s the ballads that really stand out, with I Have Nothing and Run To You tugging heavily at the heart strings. Whitney’s unique version of I’m Every Woman also features and serves as a fitting tribute to another great diva, Chaka Khan. Perhaps the most surprising song to be included is Million Dollar Bill, Whitney’s last major chart hit, but has never sounded as good as it does now. The story reaches its climax, but is in no way diminished by the predictable conclusion; it sets out to entertain and delivers by the shedload.
The cast dazzled with energy and didn’t put a foot wrong throughout the performance. Beverley Knight was a tour de force as Rachel; while Ben Richards of Hollyoaks fame easily fitted the role of Farmer, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Kevin Costner. Although perhaps the greatest revelation is Rachel John as Nicki Marron, who sang beautifully on Saving All My Love For You and All At Once. Amidst the recognition undoubtedly due to cast and creatives, we must also pay tribute to the beautiful, talented Whitney Houston; taken from us at the pitifully young age of forty eight. Whitney had her critics; her pitch perfect delivery and athletic vocal range could sound sterile and soulless, much like a computer programmed to sing. But that girl could sing, the control and expression was staggering; I always thought she was itching to cut lose like her Godmother Aretha Franklin, but it never really happened. The Bodyguard is a fine reminder of Whitney as a performing artist.
Original Screenplay: Laurence Kazdan
Book: Alexander Dinelaris
Director: Thea Sharrock
Producers: Michael Harrison and David Ian
Musical Director: Tom Gearing
Choreographer: Karen Bruce
Booking Link: https://www.nederlander.co.uk/whats-on/the-bodyguard/dates
Box Office: 0845 200 7981
Booking until: 7 January 2017