I finally managed to sort out a visit to the newest “film to stage” musical in town a few days ago. The Bodyguard started previews in November and has received mixed reviews. Following the well-known movie starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Kostner the show tells the story of singer (and superstar) Rachel Marron who is threatened by an unknown stalker and Frank Farmer who is hired to protect her. Most of you will have seen the movie so I won’t go into any more details here. The stage show has changed a few pieces of the storyline – some of which work well and one in particular that I personally don’t like. But I’ll come back to that later (there will be spoilers!).
Heather Headley stars as Rachel Marron and for me she is the highlight of the show. From the moment we catch the first glimpse of her right until the end of “I wanna dance with somebody” (the show’s uptempo finale) Heather owns the stage. She has the most amazing voice you can think of – not only does she have a power belt, her voice also has a really nice and warm tone. I love to hear her sing. However, beside being a brilliant singer Heather really captures the character of Rachel - extremely sure of herself and used to getting what she wants but in the end just a girl and mother who is scared for her life and the safety of her family.
Frank Farmer – the bodyguard – is played by Lloyd Owens. The part focuses on acting only (there’s no dancing involved and the tiny bit of singing in one scene doesn’t really count) which works great for Lloyd. Frank is quite an introverted character so the actor playing him needs to have great stage presence to stand up to the outgoing Rachel Marron. And Lloyd Owen simply oozes charisma. The only slight problem I have with Lloyd’s portrayal is that it is hard to notice Frank actually falls in love with Rachel. He just seems too controlled and shows little to no feelings.
Janet Kumah was on for Nicky Marron and I admit I was a bit disappointed to miss out on Debbie Kurup on my first visit (I just love to see her on stage). But that disappointment vanished as soon as Janet started singing for the first time. She has a wonderful voice and manages to give Nicky a really soft and extremely vulnerable side despite her burning jealousy of her popular sister Rachel. Coming back to the one script change (compared to the movie) I don’t really like so far: Nicky has been reduced to a lovesick girl who longs after Frank Farmer and envies her sister. In the movie it is Nicky who hires the killer. In the stage show she just dwells in jealousy, anger, sadness and maybe a little self-pity but she doesn’t actually do anything. For me that makes the character less interesting.
The rest of the cast does a great job. Mark Letheren is wonderfully creepy as The Stalker (there is just one bad guy in the stage show) and I have to give a special mention to David Page who gets the chance to show off his dancing abilities as Rory (Rachel’s choreographer). Plus it is fantastic to see Holly James on stage again – she is just stunning and always manages to stand out. However, it is pretty clear that this show is focusing on Rachel, Frank and Nicky.
For me The Bodyguard is a fabulous Whitney concert with a story mixed in between. I have heard people say that the whole show is lacking on substance and I agree to a certain extend. The story is predictable and the characters are not that well-developed. However, the show is based on a (in my opinion) rather bad movie that was successful because of Whitney Houston and its soundtrack. So anyone who watches The Bodyguard expecting deep and thoughtful theatre (to quote a character from another show) is bound to feel let down. Personally I had the best time watching this show and I’m already sorting out my next visit.
I suggest you give this one a try – if only to see and hear all those songs being performed by such a talented cast.
The Bodyguard is playing at the Adelphi Theatre. For more info and to book tickets visit http://www.thebodyguardmusical.com/.