body toppers

The Bodyguard

The Alexandra Theatre


The hit film, the second biggest earner of 1992 despite lukewarm reviews, has become a hit musical and it is easy to see why. For a start it has a string of Whitney Houston hits, music we all know, which makes it familiar, nostalgic even, and, let’s be honest, there are some cracking songs in there.

Then the story is simple and easy to follow with a megastar diva under threat clashing with a bodyguard she doesn’t want but who is willing to die for her. Mind you, apart from the dying bit, it is a job with fringe benefits, so we do get a brief love affair, along with a few laughs, a sinister stalker and a final showdown.

Oh, and then there is that song, I will always love you, (which Dolly Parton’s bank account certainly does), which owned the charts for ten weeks back in the day. The film cemented Houston as an international star and the musical will certainly do Emily Williams no harm.

The New Zealand born, Australian star, born into a Samoan family, has the southern hemisphere pretty well sewn up, but this could be her one moment in time – she might not be a household name in these parts yet but with a magical voice that can soothe one minute and raise the roof the next, it shouldn’t take long for word to spread.

She takes pop diva Rachel Marron by the scruff of the well pampered neck and makes the role her own managing quiet romantic ballads such as The Greatest Love of All and power ballads such as One Moment in Time with equal ease.

finale song

Emily Williams as Rachel Marron, singing that song, the Whitney Houston cover with a billion plus hits on YouTube, streamed more than 100 million times in the UK and topping the charts for 10 weeks in 1992. Pictures: Paul Coltas

Not that she has it all her own way though. Emily-Mae as Rachel’s sister Nicki is right up there with a voice to die for. It can drift into jazz or ballads or anthems without dropping a beat and for both Marron sisters you could hear every word, every note was clear and on the duets their voices blended quite beautifully, always controlled, balanced and harmonious.

Ayden Callaghan (Hollyoaks) gives us a rather humourless Frank Farmer, former secret service agent turned bodyguard for hire. Mind you if you knew any little mistake in your job meant you were likely to get shot dead it would take the gloss off many an office party at this time of year.

We also discovered that Frank is a far better bodyguard than singer as he was to prove in a karaoke bar making Lee Marvin’s wandering star sound like Pavarotti.

A reluctant Frank is hired by Rachel’s worried manager Bill Devaney, played by John Macaulay, after threatening notes left in the star’s dressing room. Frank doesn’t do celebrities but once persuaded is committed to the job, making enemies of Rachel and her entourage from the moment he arrives and shows her so-called security at her mansion is non-existent. Bill spends much of the first act persuading Rachel and her team Frank is needed.


Ayden Callaghan as Frank Farmer, the bodyguard, and Emily-Mae as Nicki Marron

The only person not riled is Rachel’s young son Fletcher, with a lovely performance from Sam Stephens on Press night. Sam has a good voice, lovely stage presence and is a product of The Royal Ballet School, so dances like a pro.

All around Rachel are the trappings of celebrity. There is her publicist Sy Spector, played with an air of I don’t really care what happens as long as it gets on TV and in all the papers by James Groom, and her head of what it turned out to be non-security, Tony Scibelli, from an initially surly Greham Elwell,

Tony is to come around as he learns the finer points of keeping your client alive while Sy . . . keeping Rachel alive keeps him in a job, but putting her in danger keeps her in the headlines, so it’s a tough choice.

Then we have Marios Nicolaides as the stalker, always a shadow in the background, waiting for his chance, well second chance really as he really messed up the first one – can’t say any more but he should ask for ID next time, that’s all I’ll say.

It’s a nice touch at the curtain call for him to have a friendly short duet with Rachel.

The plot might be a bit cheesey, but it is at the quality vintage mature cheese end, and, despite a few holes in the storyline if you look too closely, it does provide rock solid entertainment, doing everything it promises on the tin, or poster in this case, with Alexander Dinelaris’ book mirroring the original Lawrence Kasdan screenplay as far as possible on stage.

There have been changes over the years and without too much of a spoiler the final stalker scene is a little weak these days.  

We have the psycho with his laser guided gun targeting the audience in a dramatic moment with his red beam slowly traversing the punters threatening death (some people even ducked!) – then during the Oscars he wanders on stage close enough to use a flintlock pistol with no laser in sight. They could at least have stretched out the threat and tension with a bit of red beam targeting to whet our appetites ready for violence.

Always around as well are the hard working magnificent seven in the ensemble, with some lively and acrobatic dance routines (choreography Karen Bruce), Then there are two more stars in the show with Duncan McClean’s video designs on a full stage scrim screen adding interest and almost a film noir feel, then the set and costume design from Tim Hatley and lighting from Mark Henderson, which took on a life of their own, changing scenes and moods in the wink of an eye, showing what computer controlled LED lighting can manage.

Behind it all was the music from a six strong orchestra under Musical Director Sam Hall, an orchestra who managed a big sound for such a small number, all well balanced by Richard Brooker's sound design.

The Bodyguard is a sparkling alternative to panto which promises an entertaining evening packed with classic hits It might not be festive, but it is still a cracker. Directed by Thea Sharrock, Frank will be doing his best to keep Rachel alive to 30-12-23. 

Roger Clarke


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