Culture Writer Kitty Grant reviews The Bodyguard: The Musical finding the cast to be incredibly talented despite the story being rushed and unemotional
A few months ago, this production of The Bodyguard made headlines after a performance was stopped early after audience members refused to stop singing along. Based on the 1992 film of the same name, The Bodyguard uses the music of Whitney Houston, who also starred in the film. I won’t weigh in on the debate about whether or not audiences should be allowed to sing along at the theatre, but after seeing the show, I’m not surprised that the main reason this tour has been talked about is the music.
The main storyline of The Bodyguard revolves around the romance between pop superstar Rachel Marron (Emily Williams) and former secret service officer Frank Farmer (Ayden Callaghan), who acts as Rachel’s bodyguard after she is targeted by a stalker. They two are initially reluctant to work together – Frank doesn’t like working with celebrities and Rachel, unaware of the stalker, doesn’t think she needs protection – but their romance blossoms. I’m usually a fan of enemies to lovers storylines but I didn’t feel like there was enough build up of their relationship; one moment they hated each other but in the blink of an eye they were on a date and in another blink they were madly in love. I wish more time had been spent developing their relationship, but I didn’t see enough of their love story to really care.
The vocal talents of the cast are undeniable – it’s no easy task to do a Whitney Houston song justice but all the performances were great both as covers of Whitney songs and as standalone performances. However, the acting wasn’t quite as strong. There were some good performances, especially Emily-Mae as Nicki, Rachel’s younger sister, but many of the emotional beats fell flat due to underwhelming performances. Despite her incredible voice, I also found Emily Williams’ performances of the more upbeat numbers a little lacklustre.
Though I’m usually a fan of more traditional sets in musicals, I enjoyed the use of projections and videos in this production. I thought the black and white images mixed with tense music helped add tension and drama to the show, which is often difficult to do in musicals. The use of silhouettes added to the tension and added a hint of film-noiresque visuals. The pyrotechnics, choreography and costumes for the performance scenes were impressive and fun, making the audience feel like we were seeing a real pop star’s show. The music was also great, at times I felt like I was at work (I work in a gay bar so that’s a compliment). However, I do think The Bodyguard relies a little too heavily on the draw of Houston’s music, at the end of the day, the show doesn’t have much to offer to those who aren’t Houston fans.
While I think this performance of The Bodyguard struggled to carry the emotional weight it needed, the music, stage design, and vocal talents of the cast still made it an enjoyable watch.
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