Alexander Dinelaris (book) based on screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan
Michael Harrison and David Ian
As sassy and smooth as ever, The Bodyguard returned to Liverpool in triumph last night. Almost three years after its first appearance, once again this adaptation of the Kevin Costner / Whitney Houston movie brought the Liverpool Empire house down, and it's easy to see why.
This is a show overflowing with an abundance of theatrical goodies: vocals tender and powerful; crisp choreography; the silkiest of live bands; staging as ingenious as you will see. The list goes on. The energy simply takes the breath away.
Always worthy of special mention is that set, a devilishly clever concoction of sliding panels which effortlessly morphs into recording studios, night clubs, morning rooms and more without missing a single beat. It's not only the ears that are assailed, but the eyes too. There's a lot going on up on that stage, yet it's so utterly seamless.
From the moment it opens with a bang—literally—and the opening number "Queen of the Night" hits the stage, this production flies by. Indeed, one of the many delights of this show is rediscovering Whitney Houston's superb back catalogue, which includes hits such as "I'm Every Woman" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody". Soundtrack to the 1980s. But not for one minute does this production reduce into a greatest hits night. The songs always seem entirely apt, a perfect fusion of music and drama.
Never easy reprising roles from a successful movie, but this production manages it with something to spare. Alexandra Burke plays the central role of Rachel Marron with aplomb. There are not many performers who could pull off a role immortalised by the icon that is Whitney Houston, but Ms Burke somehow manages to do just that. This a vocal tour de force. Her show-stopping version of "I Will Always Love You" is, as the old cliché goes, worth the price of admission alone.
If all that doesn’t induce giddiness then some rather clever video inserts should do the trick. Whether it’s the stalker (Phil Atkinson) penning sinister missives or Rachel and Frank (Benoit Marechal) locked together in smoochy heaven, video footage is used sparingly and with maximum effect in this production.
If there could be a tadge more dramatic tension to be extracted from the cat and mouse game played out between stalker and his target, then it's a minor criticism. Sometimes theatre cannot emulate the small screen entirely. This stage version kicks ass, which is what it is supposed to do.
So how good is The Bodyguard? Let’s just say this is one of those shows that only happens when the stars are in full alignment. Hype is the lifeblood of theatre. Sometimes it's earned, sometimes not. Rarely a show comes along that needs no hype—The Bodyguard is one such show. One Moment in Time.
Reviewer: David Sedgwick