Simon Hale watches the enjoyable-in-parts Christmas offering from the Alexandra Theatre.
Celebrity comes with its risks, the most serious of which is being stalked – a crime that is pursued to murderous intent in The Bodyguard, which has returned to Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre as its Christmas offering.
As far as you can get from panto, this romantic thriller is primarily a tribute to music legend Whitney Houston, with a constant outpouring of her hits from One Moment in Time and I Have Nothing to I Will Always Love You.
Based on the 1992 film of the same name starring Houston herself as Rachel Marron and Kevin Costner as former Secret Serviceman Frank Farmer, the musical features multi-platinum Australian recording artist Emily Williams and Ayden Callaghan from Emmerdale and Hollyoaks in the lead roles.
While a solid vehicle for all the songs, you will need to have seen the movie to make sense of all the twists and turns of the original plot, which begins with Farmer being brought in to protect a world-leading singer from a stalker despite her objection as her team prepare for her appearance at the Oscars.
Callaghan played a convincing bodyguard on opening night, refusing to be compromised as anger turns to passion, even though we are not told of the motivations from his past, while Williams made a less than believable Marron.
Not helped by costumes that did not suit her, it was difficult to see both the diva-like strength and the soft vulnerable domesticity required in her character, which left the chemistry in her big relationship with Farmer somewhat lacking. Williams was more at home in the big numbers where she was literally on a pedestal right from the start from where she sang All at Once, a Houston-written ballad about a love that leaves without warning. Her singing was enjoyable enough but in the early numbers you sensed she was playing it safe and relying too much on pre-recorded harmonies in an otherwise excellent soundtrack that was well supported by a live band.
The star of the night however was Emily-Mae, delivering a sensitive and nuanced performance as Rachel’s jealous sister Nicki Marron. This included a beautiful rendition of the Gospel song Jesus Love Me. You felt that she could have taken on her sister’s role quite effortlessly.
Producers Michael Harrison and Davis Ian have brought the story up to date with the use of social media, back videos and pyrotechnics. You did, however, miss the same tension and suspense that made the original film such a success.
To be fair, the show had some truly scary moments, as well as plenty of humour, with Marios Nicolaides playing a suitably creepy stalker and nine-year-old Kaylen Luke a sweetly smart Fletcher, Marron’s son. The choreography directed by Karen Bruce was top notch while the sets by Tim Hatley, especially a deep woods refuge, were absorbingly intricate.
Still warming up on its UK tour, the sign of greater nights to come arrived at the end when the show finally hit the heights with the audience standing, clapping and singing to I Wanna Dance with Somebody.
The Bodyguard is in performance at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham until Saturday 30th December. (Box office 0844 871 3011 ATGtickets.com/Birmingham).
Pics – Paul Coltas.