The Bodyguard The Musical is at The Playhouse Theatre Edinburgh (Tuesday 9th to Saturday 20th July) with Alexandra Burke reviving her first theatrical musical stage role from 2104 as singer Rachel Marron, and it is obvious that this show has some special connections to her from tonight’s performance.
With her appearances on the X Factor television show (winning in 2008) and a successful recording career following on from that show, this role seems a perfect one for Alexandra as there are moments of overlap here between her fictional character and her own . Having seen Alexandra in other musical theatre roles such as “Sister Act”, it is good to see that, away from the prime time limelight of reality television shows, Alexandra has had the talent and ambition to create a solid career in stage musicals (amongst other formats).
This musical, of course, is an adaptation of the hugely successful film 1992 film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, and with its complicated and twisting plot-lines it is not an easy film to bring to the stage, but overall it has survived the transition well, and part of that reason has to be that the quality of songs in the film and the format of the story revolving around a singer gave some obvious synergies between the two. The far too early death of Whitney Houston has also made this musical a focal point for many of her fans since its release. Wisely here, Alexandra Burke knows that Whitney Houston’s vocal abilities were unique and makes no attempt to try and be that singer onstage, opting instead to give the role of Rachel Marron and the songs her own take that suits her own vocal abilities well.
There are a lot of classic songs in this show ranging from ballads to up-tempo dance numbers, and Alexandra Burke does a good job with both, but it is always the more up-tempo numbers that seem to bring out the best audience responses at this show, and the big opening show number “Queen of The Night” allows Alexandra to firmly establish herself on this stage and connect with its audience from the very start of this show. It is fair to say though that Alexandra’s core talent is vocal performance and not dramatic performance, but this is a show that seems to be focusing less on the dramatic aspects of everyone’s roles here in favour of “musical theatre”, and that is a shame as there is potential for some real depth to many of the characters here.
Strangely though, the iconic film scene of Rachel performing in the club (from which the iconic movie poster follows on) has a completely different visual take to it and for me loses a lot of its power. When we do get to see our stalker, his scenes are all too often nearing those of a “pantomime villain” and there were some similarly pantomime reactions from the audience. There just does not seem time in this show, or space on stage, to fully develop some of the more dramatic elements.
The name of the show is of course “The Bodyguard” and the role of former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is performed by Benoît Maréchal, who although known best in the UK for some of his dramatic roles has a firm background in musical theatre too but, sadly, this role does not allow him to expand beyond a poor karaoke slot his musical theatre credentials. Benoît Maréchal is the dramatic performance anchor point in this show, but even then, the format of it is allowing for only a limited use of his potential, but he does a good job with the role and works well with Alexandra in their scenes together.
There are so many songs, and a plot that requires perhaps a few too many scene changes to leave time to explore in any depth the really interesting relationship dynamics here between Rachel Marron (Alexandra Burke) and her sister Nicki Marron (Micha Richardson), but some of Nicki’s songs do make up for that a little and Micha Richardson at times makes this show her own.
With songs that include “One Moment in Time”, “Saving All My Love”, “Run to You”, “I Have Nothing”, “Greatest Love Of All”, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and of course “I Will Always Love You” it is easy to see why the show had so many people in the audience finding at least one or more favourite songs here.
Oddly enough though for a musical, some of the dance numbers seemed a little under-rehearsed here tonight and need tightened up in places. The choice to use the horizontal and vertical stage curtains to create “windows” of different sizes for different set scenes might have solved the one problem of allowing the next scene to be set up behind curtains without interruption to the story line, but it did create dome difficult sight lines for the audience depending on where you were seated at the time. For a “big musical”, this show also used only a small part of the stage space that The Playhouse Theatre offered for too much of the time. This though was offset by a good live band playing some iconic songs.
Review by Tom King