In 1973, Dolly Parton wrote and recorded a song for her one time partner and mentor Porter Wagoner. Although Dolly had two No 1 hits with the song on the the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart, the track wasn’t that well known until 1992 when a singer called Whitney Houston recorded a cover for a movie she was was starring in. The song was “I Will Always Love You” and the movie was turned into a musical of the same name in 2012. Of course, I am talking about The Bodyguard which has opened for a limited run at London’s Dominion Theatre.
Grammy Award winner and oscar nominee Rachel Marron (Beverley Knight or Carole Stennett) has a problem that she is not aware of. Somewhere outside of her cosseted life there is a stalker (Matthew Stathers) who is so in love with her that he wants to have her all to himself and get her away from the entourage she is surrounded by. Her sister Nicki (Rachel John), Publicist Sy Spector (Dominic Taylor) Head of Security Tony Scibelli (Alex Andreas) and her son Fletcher (Keaton Edmund/Max Fincham/Mickell Stewart-Grimes/Jaden Oshenye). Nobody seems to be taking the threats against Rachel that seriously until Bill Devaney (Mark Holden) approaches professional bodyguard Frank Farmer (Ben Richards) to engage his services in protecting Rachel and her family. Frank reluctantly agrees to take on the job and instantly gets into an argument with Sy who wants Rachel to be as visible as possible during the run up to the Oscars. Rachel sides with Sy and insists on doing a special gig despite Frank’s advice. Somehow, Frank has to find a way to get Rachel to understand the seriousness of the situation and ensure that she, along with her family, is still around to collect her award.
My first bit of advice to you if you are planning to go and see The Bodyguard is to forget the movie. Writer Alexander Dinelaris has brought the story up to date and changed the emphasis of the show to make Rachel and her sister the main focus points. The changes are subtle but make the show an entity in its own right.
The music itself is pure Whitney and the 16 songs are all classics. I saw the show on a Monday night when Carole Stennett was playing Rachel (Beverley Knight is currently scheduled to appear at Tuesday to Friday evening performances and both performances on Saturday,) and she, along with Rachel John, make every song their own, ensuring that this is not just some sort of Whitney tribute show. As with all musicals, there is an iconic song and in The Bodyguard it is, of course, “I Will Always Love You” which, I have to say Carole absolutely knocked out of the park. She looked stunning (Superb design by Tim Hatley) and sounded absolutely first class, leaving me with the family lump in my throat as the last note floated around the auditorium to the sound of ecstatic applause. Both actresses are absolutely first class throughout the show with powerful voices and immense stage presence that totally dominate everything around them. This could be a problem, but luckily the other characters are written in a way that adds to the two leads so even Frank Farmer is a bit of support character rather than a lead in his own right. Whilst mentioning characters however, I have to single out Matthew Stathers who played The Stalker. Matthew managed to be menacing and terrifying just by being there. This was partly due to Mark Henderson’s very atmospheric lighting design, which, at times, makes it seem as if he appears from nowhere, but full credit has to go Matthew’s acting ability.
Director Thea Sharrock starts The Bodyguard with a literal bang – which actually convinced the majority of the audience to finally get off their phones – and delivered a really well crafted production that never let up. My favourite scene was ‘secret gig’ part of which was played in slow-motion to really heighten the tension, an idea that paid off brilliantly.
Overall then, The Bodyguard is a brilliant crowd pleasing adaptation of a classic film. It’s true that the plot may be a bit thin but that really doesn’t matter because the staging and performing are so good. In some ways this is a two woman show with a lot of background but that is not to underestimate the parts played by all of the cast in supporting the two leads. My one quibble – and it was something that really annoyed me – was the unnecessary sing-along/dance-along at the end. This production really doesn’t need a cheap gimmick like that to ensure that its audience leave happy and feeling they have had a fantastic time. My companion whilst understanding my thoughts, disagreed with me and really loved that part.
All in all, The Bodyguard is excellent and comes highly recommended for a great evening out. Classic songs superbly performed, what more can anyone ask?
Review by Terry Eastham
Beverley Knight returns to the international hit musical The Bodyguard for a strictly limited six month run West End run to play Oscar-nominated superstar Rachel Marron with Ben Richards as Frank Farmer, Marron’s bodyguard. Performances continue at the Dominion Theatre for this strictly limited season to 7 January 2017.
The full cast comprises Beverley Knight (Rachel Marron), Ben Richards (The Bodyguard), Rachel John (Nicki Marron), Carole Stennett (alternate Rachel Marron), Mark Holden (Bill Devaney), Alex Andreas (Tony), Dominic Taylor (Sy Spector), Matthew Stathers (Stalker) and Glen Fox (Ray Court). Ensemble members are Omari Bernard, Faye Best, Pablo Ceresuela Torres, Lisa Darnell, Charles Hagerty, Emma Joy Hopkins, Ibinabo Jack, Christopher Jeffers, Verity Jones, Annie Kitchen, Phoebe Liberty, Elliot Powell, Raul Naranjo Garcia, Mary Lynn Tiep, Michael Wade-Peters, Kyle Wardlaw, Matthew Wesley, Emmy Willow and Mark Willshire. Keaton Edmund, Max Fincham, Jaden Oshenye and Mickell Stewart Grimes alternate the role of Fletcher, Rachel Marron’s young son.
Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don’t expect is to fall in love. A romantic thriller, The Bodyguard features a whole host of irresistible classics including Queen of the Night, So Emotional, One Moment in Time, Saving All My Love, I’m Your Baby Tonight, Run to You, I Have Nothing, I Wanna Dance With Somebody and one of the greatest hit songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.
Based on Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 Oscar nominated Warner Bros. film, Thea Sharrock’s production of The Bodyguard has book by Alex Dinelaris. With designs by Tim Hatley, lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Richard Brooker, video designs by Duncan McLean, choreography by Karen Bruce, orchestrations by Chris Egan, musical supervision by Richard Beadle and production musical supervision by Mike Dixon, The Bodyguard is produced by Michael Harrison and David Ian.
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