Reviewed by Matt Forrest
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Over the last few years there have been a spate of Hollywood blockbusters that have been given the West End / Broadway treatment. Some have made little impact whilst others have become huge! The Bodyguard: The Musical, unquestionably falls into the successful camp. It opened in the West End in 2012, and has since toured the UK on numerous occasions as well as several international tours.
Now the pop musical extravaganza arrives in Manchester, as the Palace Theatre’s big production for the festive period, bringing with it the glitz, glamour, and some absolute classic tunes.
Following the plot of the 1992 Hollywood film, music megastar Rachel Marron (Alexandra Burke) has attracted the unwelcome attention of a deranged stalker: he has stolen one of her dresses, as well as sent her numerous death threats. Marron’s worried manager Bill Devaney (Neil Reidman), seeks out former secret service agent Frank Farmer (Ben Lewis) to be part of Rachel’s protection team.
The spoilt singer and her bodyguard soon clash, as Rachel is not happy with Frank’s over cautious approach, as well as the day-to-day impact he is having on her life. In addition, Farmer is less than impressed with his new clients ‘diva’ like attitude.
For Farmer the job isn’t just about protecting Rachel, but her family as well, which includes Rachel’s sister, Nicki (Emmy Willow), who develops feelings for Farmer. However, following an incident at a nightclub concert where Farmer protects Rachel from an unruly class, the two begin to fall for each other. As the romance blossoms between the the two, the threat intensifies to Rachel and her family, can Farmer maintain a relationship and stay sharp enough in order to catch the deranged stalker?
The undoubted star of the show is Alexandra Burke, she is without a doubt is the headline act and heart of this performance and quite rightly so. She has the star quality needed for the role and the voice to match. She certainly does justice to crowd favourites Queen of the Night and One Moment in Time giving an outstanding performance.
It’s not just Burke who deserves plaudits, equally impressive is Emmy Willow, who also has a tremendous voice. She absolutely nails Saving All My Love for You and duet with Burke on I have Nothing is beautiful. Willow brings a warmth and vulnerability to the overshadowed Nicki.
Ben Lewis is solid as Farmer, a believable reluctant action hero, and he also gives a great comedic version of I Will Always Love You. There is an undoubted chemistry between him and Burke, however the romantic element of the story seems rushed, with both let down by some some clunky dialogue.
The ensemble cast work their socks off throughout, with some fantastic choreographed routines, whilst one of the biggest cheers of the night came with the introduction of the show’s villain, the stalker (Phil Atkinson), complete with a bare chest and abs you could grate cheese on (during the interval I heard one lady say, “he can stalk me any time”, judging audience reactions, stalking is ok if it’s done by a hunk!)
This production, as you would expect, has some high-end production values, pyrotechnics, dry ice, an ever-changing stage, and some gorgeous costumes, from tailored suits to glamourous dresses adding to the glitz and razzmatazz, creating the world of this global superstar.
The finale is of course a spine-tingling rendition of I will Always Love You, which is almost ruined by a giant projected image of our Bodyguard hero, it’s corny and as cheesy as a large pan of fondue, and an unwelcome distraction for the shows big closing moment.
There is of course time for one more feel good moment, as the entire cast nail a fun rendition of I wanna Dance with Somebody which had everybody up on their feet and dancing in the isles.
This is escapism theatre at its finest and the perfect way to forget your trouble for a few hours and get away from the hustle and bustle of Christmas, a decent excuse (like you need one) to have sing and dance.
The Bodyguard The Musical is at the Palace Theatre until the 4th January. Tickets can be found here.