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The Bodyguard at New Wimbledon Theatre, London – Review

The idea that someone like Frank Farmer (Ayden Callaghan) has to ‘protect’ Rachel Marron (Melody Thornton) to the point where she has to push back in order to go about her business is a curious one, especially in this day and age. The bodyguard in a sharp suit is, in effect, a would-be knight in shining armour, and he carries her away, quite literally, from danger as though she is incapable of running for herself. This absurdity is only underlined by Karen Bruce’s sprightly choreography, which sees Thornton’s Marron (as well as a sizeable ensemble) strut their stuff with flair and confidence. There is an important caveat, however: a man known only as The Stalker (Marios Nicolaides) has been, well, stalking Marron, as well as sending increasingly threatening notes and messages, intercepted by her management team.

THE BODYGUARD. Melody Thornton 'Rachel Marron' and Ayden Callaghan 'Frank Farmer'. Photo Paul Coltas.
THE BODYGUARD. Melody Thornton ‘Rachel Marron’ and Ayden Callaghan ‘Frank Farmer’. Photo Paul Coltas.

Thornton has substantial shoes to fill in a role made famous by Whitney Houston (1963-2012) in the film of the same name. She stamps her own authority on the role, and anybody going into the show expecting a replica of Houston is bound to be disappointed. It is with some regret that I report the on-stage chemistry between Rachel Marron and Frank Farmer wasn’t altogether convincing (not, alas, ‘The Greatest Love of All’), with outspoken thoughts from Marron’s sister Nicki (Emily-Mae) helping to fortify the premise that their relationship was something more than professional. The ubiquity of Farmer’s presence was summed up by a tacky but nonetheless accurate line from Marron’s publicist, Sy Spector (an enthusiastic James Groom): “Frank comes everywhere.

The narrative was, from time to time, more than a little sluggish – some very long pauses and silences made me wonder if I was meant to be watching a Harold Pinter or a Samuel Beckett play, and it jarred with the excellent renderings of up-tempo musical numbers. Marron, the audience is led to believe, is a multi-million album-selling singer with dozens of awards and nominations to her name, and Richard Brooker’s sound design convincingly makes the audience feel they have been transported (metaphorically speaking, of course) to a sold-out arena concert whenever the big ensemble numbers come. But it’s also brilliant at portraying the sound of a recording studio, or indeed the intimate nature of conversations at home.

It’s rare to see and hear an audience react as vigorously to certain moments in a show. The evening began with a sudden plunge into darkness (not unheard of in the theatre, to be fair) and then an impressively believable gunshot. Who or what gets shot, or shot at, would be giving too much away. Then there’s the sudden appearance of The Stalker, which again I can’t say too much about, suffice to say Nicolaides in the role is the epitome of the old adage that there is no such thing as a small part.

There are moments of hilarity, although these aren’t always intended – some giant projected images of the characters during the instrumental break in ‘I Will Always Love You’ was meant, I think, to be poignant but came across to me as laughably pretentious. ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’ is performed deliberately slightly off-key by the ensemble (the context being a karaoke night) but nonetheless with gusto. Endure the story and enjoy the songs in this glamorous and good-natured show.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

The international, award-winning smash-hit musical The Bodyguard is back! Starring Pussycat Doll, and multi-platinum Grammy nominated Melody Thornton* as Rachel Marron and Ayden Callaghan (Emmerdale, Hollyoaks) as Frank Farmer.

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 ‘BRILLIANT!’ (The Times), breathtakingly 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, Run to You, I Have Nothing, Greatest Love Of All, Million Dollar Bill, I Wanna Dance With Somebody and one of the greatest hit songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.

*Melody Thornton will perform the role of ‘Rachel Marron’ at all evening performances only. Cast and performance schedule subject to change without notice.

THE BODYGUARD 2023 TOUR (dates going forward)

Monday 6 March – Saturday 11 March 2023
New Wimbledon Theatre

Monday 20 March – Saturday 25 March 2023
Liverpool Empire

Monday 27 March – Saturday 1 April 2023
Dartford Orchard Theatre
www.orchardtheatre.co.uk

Monday 3 April – Saturday 15 April 2023
Manchester Palace Theatre

Monday 17 April – Saturday 22 April 2023
Leicester Curve Theatre
www.curvetheatre.co.uk

Monday 24 April – Saturday 29 April 2023
Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre
www.walesmillenniumcentre.co.uk

Tuesday 2 May – Saturday 6 May 2023
Aberdeen His Majesty’s Theatre
www.aberdeentheatres.co.uk

Monday 8 May – Saturday 13 May 2023
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
www.grandtheatre.co.uk

Monday 15 May – Saturday 20 May 2023
Bromley Churchill Theatre
www.churchilltheatre.co.uk

Monday 22 May – Saturday 27 May 2023
Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Monday 29 May – Saturday 3 June 2023
Milton Keynes Theatre

Monday 12 June – Saturday 17 June 2023
Leeds Grand Theatre
www.leedsgrandtheatre.com

Monday 19 June – Saturday 24 June 2023
Llandudno Venue Cymru
www.venuecymru.co.uk

Monday 26 June – Saturday 1 July 2023
Plymouth Theatre Royal
www.theatreroyal.co.uk

Monday 17 July – Saturday 22 July 2023
Bristol Hippodrome

FURTHER DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED

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