An electrifying central performance by Alexandra Burke, and fabulous support from the whole ensemble had the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre audience on its feet last night, as The Bodyguard showed why it is one of the best of all modern musicals. From the opening number ‘Queen of the Night’, thrillingly staged with pyrotechnics, to the emotional finale of the classic ‘I will always love you’, this was a polished spectacle with Alexandra in full diva mode in a role she was born to play.
The story is familiar to anyone who has seen the ultra-popular film which starred the late Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. Rachel Marron is a musical superstar, a beautiful diva with the whole world at her feet. Her perfect life is threatened by a pyschopath who is obsessed with her, something her management team have decided to hide from her. They hire the singer a bodyguard, Frank Farmer, (the charasmatic Stuart Reid) to help protect her, but without knowing what is happening, she resents his presence in her life. When she finally realises that she is really in danger, her feelings towards the handsome Farmer change, and a relationship develops. But danger and tragedy are never far away, and the tale takes a tragic turn.
In the role of Rachel Marron, Alexandra Burke is simply brilliant. A small lady with a huge stage presence, she makes Marron a compelling character, a feisty diva with a vulnerable and loving side that she reveals as the musical progresses. Her American accent is near faultless, and she performs the songs with verve and style. In particular, her rendition of ‘I will always love you’ is just showstopping. Her natural performers ability make the set pieces where Rachel is meant to be performing live very exciting and exuberant – ‘I’m every woman’ could be a concert performance. She is simply perfect in this role – a true diva.
Stuart Reid as Frank Farmer is almost a straight man, solid, dependable foil to Rachel’s glamour and sass. That he makes Frank more three dimensional than Kevin Costner ever did is a credit to his charm and ability, and the fact that he can also send up his singing ability in one of the best scenes (in the kareoke bar) just adds to a performance that had the female half of the audience swooning.
Two other performances also stand out. Melissa James is simply wonderful as the tragic Nikki Marron, the sister who lives in the shadows of a superstar. Her performance of ‘Saving all my love for you’ is spine tingling, whilst the duet of Run to You with Alexandra Burke is my personal highlight of ‘The Bodyguard’ – a heartbreaking ballad sang by two women to the same man. As Fletcher, Jhayheim Davis is a rare child on stage who avoids being sickly saccharine and is instead sweet and enchanting, a real innocent trapped in a deadly situation.
The Bodyguard is wonderful entertainment, never more so that during the Academy Awards scene, when Alexandra belts out one moment in time in a stunning gold gown, one of many exquisite costumes designed by Tim Hateley that are just integral to the joy of losing yourself in what almost feels like a cinematic experience. The sets are also fabulous, with moveable pieces allowing light and shadows to be used as part of the story.
The Bodyguard should not be missed. It is at the Wolverhampton Grand theatre until Saturday 2nd May. Click here for ticket information.