The Bodyguard at New Wimbledon Theatre
For those of you interested in this show the plot line needs very little introduction due to being based on the film of the same name. For those that don’t know the film, the show follows star singer Rachel Marron who receives some threatening letters from a stalker and her management team bring in a personal bodyguard, Frank Farmer, to protect her and a relationship forms between the two of them. The story has been turned into a full jukebox stage musical with the addition of a whole host of Whitney Houston songs and really jumps out of the starting blocks with a bang. However whilst there is no doubt over the quality of the songs there were, for me, a few too many songs shoehorned into the show with a bit of a cost to the story and plot development.
As expected there was a big focus on the two lead characters of the show and the performances of Melody Thornton (Pussycat Dolls) as singer Rachel Marron and Ayden Callaghan (Hollyoaks) as the bodyguard Frank Farmer were fantastic, not just with Thornton’s singing but also with the chemistry and character performance of the pair. Sadly due to having what felt like half the show (if not more) being Houston’s hit parade, other characters were not really developed, especially the roles of sister Nicki Marron and son Fletcher. Despite these characters lacking in depth both Nicki, played by Emily-Mae and Fletcher, played by Reneo Kusi-Appauh gave really strong performances with Nicki having one of the few songs not allocated to her sister and could easily have handled another song in the show.
With the plot following a singer there were, as to be expected, a couple of really big “show- stopping” numbers. In these the dancers brought a huge amount of energy to the stage and the choreography by Karen Bruce was visually stunning. Sadly also during these numbers, noticed by others around me as well from comments I heard, there was too big a change to the sound settings to give the “gig” feel and the lighting changed to provide a “disco” feel although I could see several people shielding their eyes as the lighting from the stage blinded people sat in the darkness of the auditorium.
The staging of the show was nicely minimalist with great use of various stage curtains and video projection on the front gauze, two parts of the show though did feel like they needed improvement. One of these was where Rachel has a costume change assisted by 4 people front centre stage which just felt slow and awkward. The second was where the stalker was onstage with their back to the audience mimicking the projection on the cloth however the actors movements were out of time with the projected image.
Overall the show could be improved with the book being revisited and the emotions heightened within it and the characters developed further. However the iconic songs that this show is set to and the performances of those on stage often makes up for it. Fans of the film or of Whitney Houston should not be disappointed with this evening out.
Review by Andrew Parker
The Bodyguard is running at New Wimbledon Theatre until 11th March. If you want to find out more or book tickets you can visit their website.