The Bodyguard, the Musical. Manchester Palace Theatre
The Bodyguard – The Musical returns to the Manchester Palace Theatre, based on the 1992 blockbuster film which starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston.
For those who’ve not seen the film, its narrative surrounds superstar Rachel Marron (Alexandra Burke) who is under threat from a celebrity stalker. Frank Farmer (Ben Lewis), a former agent turned bodyguard, reluctantly accepts the offer to protect Marron but as their relationship progresses it takes a romantic turn.
The Bodyguard – The Musical is truly a cinematic experience on stage. The lighting design, by Mark Henderson, achieves a whole array of special FX including slow motion sequences and combinations of projected video (designed by Duncan McLean). The set is striking and simple, but extremely effective with a movable front screen that ‘frames’ the action on stage much like we were watching the film come to life before our eyes.
As with any jukebox musical, songs are used to both complement the narrative and used diegetically (for instance when Rachel Marron herself is performing on stage or in rehearsal). It is certainly the later production numbers that really get the atmosphere pumping with exhilarating choreography by Karen Bruce delivered exquisitely by the ensemble cast, matching any arena concert for production value.
The musical makes a few narrative decisions to enhance this show. For instance, we see ‘the stalker’ played by the menacing Phil Atkinson from the outset. This allows the tension to build when he appears out of the blue in certain scenes. Denman, a silent character for the most part, is certainly a foreboding figure and plays the part well. His striking good looks did not go unnoticed by audience members, as overheard at the interval bar – “I wouldn’t mind being stalked by him!”
While the film is set in the pre-cyber age of 1992, the musical is slightly modernised, with social media such as Instagram referenced in the plot. In one way, this magnifies our current celebrity obsession with social media, but I feel it would have been just fine keeping it in the early 90s and a little of the nostalgia is lost.
A more prominent role in the narrative is given to Marron’s sister Nicki who struggles to live in the shadow of her celebrity sister, played by Emmy Willow whose excellent vocal prowess is anything but living in Burke’s shadow. She is a superb match opposite Alexandra Burke who also does an incredible job pinning the show together with not just her stunning, soulful voice but a sensitive acting approach. The chemistry between the bodyguard (Lewis) and Burke is strong and there is also delightful performance from young Fletcher (played by Caleb Williams in this performance).
The final few musical numbers certainly lead towards a fantastic climax which is the highlight of the night. With every member of the audience on their feet all pretences of character are dropped and we are treated to a jaw-dropping performance from the full company with one of Whitney’s most loved songs. For fans of Whitney’s music, the film, or for those just looking for a night of great entertainment, this is certainly a show not to be missed.
The Bodyguard – The Musical runs until January 4 at the Manchester Palace Theatre. Details and tickets: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-bodyguard/palace-theatre-manchester/