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The Bodyguard - The Musical

The Alexandra Theatre


What an absolute cracker of a show, bristling with energy and action from its shoot out beginning to its show stopping end, packed with classic hits and with a roller coaster of a story to carry you along at a breakneck pace.

Based on the 1992 Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston hit film the musical simplifies the movie plot but the basic story remains the same. Oscar nominated actress and superstar singer Rachel Marron is being threatened by an increasingly dangerous stalker so her manager Bill Devaney persuades professional bodyguard Frank Farmer to help.

Alexandra Burke hits just that right balance between demanding diva and vulnerable young woman as Rachel. We have all known the lady has a voice since she blew The X-Factor away 12 years ago, but there is much more to her than that and it is a lovely all round performance as the mother, superstar and frightened, vulnerable Marron.

She has a love hate relationship with Frank, but perhaps that should be a hate love relationship, first resenting being told what to do by the uncompromising bodyguard, then realising he was keeping her alive.

Ben Lewis gives us a Frank who really doesn’t want to get involved in what he sees as the hyped, false world of show business with divas like Marron. His ex-secret service agent Frank is the ultimate professional, fighting emotions that he never shows but we know are there. The chemistry between the pair has to be convincing to work, and work it does to perfection.

frank and rachel

Ben Lewis as Frank and Alexandra Burke as Rachel

He has a bent for comedy as well with a Lee Marvinesque version of I Will Always Love You, claiming he couldn’t sing – and on that showing he was right – except with parents and a brother who all opera singers, and starring roles in the likes of Phantom and Love Never Dies, plus a host of solo concerts, it was a fine piece of acting. It is not easy for a trained singer to convincingly sing that badly.

Emmy Willow joined the cast as Nicki Marron in November last year and what a wonderful voice she brings with her, her solos Saving all my Love for You and All at Once are a delight and she blends well with Rachel in Run to You.

Emmy is one new star in the offing and Riotafari Gardner is another. He is one of six youngsters playing the part of Fletcher, Rachel’s son, and what a pint-sized song and dance man he is with an infectious smile and engaging personality.

There is good support from Neil Reidman as manager Bill and Gary Turner as music producer Sy Spector while Craig Berry does a fine job as Tony, the head of security who resents Frank coming in and telling him what to do.

And a mention too for Phil Atkinson, boos all around, as the stalker, a nicely sinister performance with a nice touch at the end when, raised from the dead, he joins the cast in an on yer feet dance along finale of I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and an embrace with Alexandra.

The ensemble add life and enthusiasm with some fine choreography from Karen Bruce which takes us beyond mere dance to riots and fights allied to some spectacular arena lighting and rock show sets.

For any students thinking of a career in set design or lighting this is a production which shows the possibilities. Mark Henderson’s lighting ranges from sunlit mansions to seedy clubs to rock star arena shows with 16 computer controlled spots creating a spectacular light show for the opening Queen of the Night and the whole lighting rig creating an even more spectacular, emotional I will always love you final scene.

frank nikki

Frank with Emmy Willow as Nicki

Tim Hatley’s set is a masterclass in seamless scene transitions using panels which can be used rather like the shutters of a camera to close in and focus on a particular scene or can open up parts of the stage to allow several scenes to be lined up simultaneously behind the panels, while columns and transoms which grow and illuminate are used to frame the stage for performances.

There is also clever use of a full stage video screen (Duncan McLean) adding another visual element. From a technical point of view this is a fascinating show with set and lighting full of interest and intelligence.

Music came from a superb eight piece orchestra under musical director Michael Riley, an orchestra which saw Matt Davies on an array of woodwind - tenor sax, flute, clarinet and that strange instrument the EWI, the electronic wind instrument, more often found in jazz, which adds a different sound to the mix.

I saw The Bodygard  on its first UK tour and five years on it is still seems as fresh and alive as ever, a wonderful example of modern musical theatre and rock solid, 24 carat entertainment. Directed by Thea Sharrock, The Bodyguard runs to you until 01-02-20.

Roger Clarke


Press night saw a technical hitch when one of the stage flame throwers used in the opening number continued to burn slightly in the next scene with Ben Lewis and Neil Reidman manfully carrying on as if it was all part of the show that they sat on a bench with the stage on fire in front of them! The show must go on or what?

Eventually a halt was called, a blast from a fire extinguisher solved the problem and Lewis and Reidman carried on as if nothing had happened. Hats off to the pair - brilliant professionalism. 

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