Monday, 5 October 2015

Theatre review: The Bodyguard

Based on the blockbuster film starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, Thea Sharrock's direction of Alexander Dinelaris' script is heavily on the spectacular: familiar tunes from the film – including I Will Always Love You  - are given full-blown diva attention by Alexandra Burke as the heroine Rachel Marron and what is lost in character development is hidden by the all-singing, all-dancing chorus-line and the fast-placed melodramatic plot.

Although there is a slight suggestion that Marron undergoes a personal journey towards humility (after winning an Oscar, fortunately), the story is driven by her relationship with the stoic, yet sensitive Bodyguard Frank Farmer – played by Stuart Reid with an appropriate restraint. As Rachel, and her sister, prepare for the climax of her career, a stalker gives chase, allowing Frank to defend her with his mix of straight-talking and paternal sensitivity.

The plot, however, simply provides a framework for the musical numbers, and even the  climatic confrontation becomes fodder for the resolution of Frank and Rachel's relationship. Fortunately, the fast pace and the lavish routines and set provide excitement and virtuosity enough to compensate for the lack of character development. Frank is a cypher of romantic masculinity, but Rachel's unpleasantness in the first act – she even steals Frank from her sister – is not redeemed.

However, the show is not about the script: it is about the emotional songs and the romantic tension between the showgirl and the bodyguard. Teasing the audience in the first act, the performance builds to the finale, that famous love song of regret and acceptance, and the flashing lights, dynamic dancers, bold choreography and relentless energy ensure that The Bodyguard delivers the expected excitement.

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