This musical version of the hit film The Bodyguard has quite simply the best production values I’ve ever seen in a touring show. Combine this with a raft of hit songs and the star power of Alexandra Burke and you have a crowd pleasing hit.
The story concerns singing star Rachel Marron (Burke) who is bidding for an Oscar with a song co-written with her equally talented but less successful sister Nicki (Emmy Willow). Into the mix enters a mysterious and threatening stalker (a muscular Phil Atkinson) which in turn results in the hiring of the eponymous bodyguard Frank Farmer (Ben Lewis).
I’ve not seen the original Kevin Costner/Whitney Huston film, so the fairly straightforward development of the story was nevertheless quite gripping. Although the role of the baddie was under-written, Phil Atkinson made a striking impression because of some clever staging and his commanding physical presence. The requirements of the plot, though, do result in the slightly odd situation whereby no sooner has Rachel’s new bodyguard started than terrible incidents start befalling her and her family, which he is supposed to be there to prevent.
The score is packed with well-known hit songs from Whitney Houston and others. Emmy Willow as Rachel’s sister Nicki gets a crack at some in her role as a sometime nightclub performer and has a tremendously appealing voice. Ben Lewis in the title role, by contrast, has to murder I Will Always Love You at a Karaoke night and then never sing another note for the whole evening, despite having a CV that includes numerous musicals, not least playing the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera. But he manages the changing relationship with his client and her son really well, bringing enormous credibility to the part.
At the centre of things, Alexandra Burke is perfectly cast as star/diva Rachel Marron. Her singing power is, of course, a given but she also has to be a sister, a mother and a lover. All of these she manages with apparent ease. And in the final moments her performance of I Will Always Love You is suitably brilliant.
Adding to the experience is the sheer quality of the production. The set is a slick and highly effective system of moving flats which both illuminate and frame the scenes. They also act to hide some striking scene changes, including the rehearsal room at Rachel Marron’s home and an entire log cabin, which appear magically and impressively. The whole thing is classy, stylish and just flashy enough to impress without overshadowing the performers. This is really a full-blown West End standard show with none of the cut-downs and compromises you sometimes see on a touring version.
The Bodyguard, the musical, is at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford until 18 January 2020.