Returning to The Bodyguard three years after her original stint, Beverley Knight can now claim the crown of the West End’s most thrilling leading lady. Brilliant in Memphis The Musical
, beguiling in Cats
, she’s back playing superstar singer Rachel Marron with even more stage presence and even more powerful pipes.
Raising the roof off the 1,500-seater Adelphi theatre back in 2013 was one thing. Pulling in 2,000-plus punters and belting it to the back row of the cavernous Dominion is another, but Bev is more than up to the job. She puts her own spin on a bunch of Whitney Houston songs, culled from the 1992 movie and Whitney’s extensive back catalogue, with such force I swear the seats were shaking.
She acts the part superbly too, even if the role of damsel in peril is pretty limited. And the plot is pure hokum: Someone is out to get Rachel and it’s up to bodyguard Frank Farmer (played here by strapping Footballers’ Wives
star Ben Richards) to keep her safe. And whadya know? They end up in bed together.
It’s a plot pinched from the superior Mimi Rogers/Tom Berenger thriller Someone To Watch Over Me
and the movie isn’t much cop, although it proved Whitney could act as well as shatter glass with that awesome singing voice of hers. It also reinvigorated the Dolly Parton ballad I Will Always Love You
, which Bev sings perfectly at the end of the stage version.
Turning the movie into a fully-fledged stage musical papers over the cracks in the story. The staging is fantastic, the music runs the emotional gamut from the bright and breezy How Will I Know
to the tearjerking Run To You,
and of course there’s a get-up-and-dance encore of I Wanna Dance With Somebody
that sends the audience home with a spring in its step – even though one of the characters has been shot and Rachel has lost her man.
Ben Richards is suitably manly in the Frank Farmer role and, as a seasoned singer, does an impressive job of singing karaoke out of tune. Rachel John is superb as Rachel’s sister Nicki and, on press night, little Jaden Oshenye brought the house down with his nifty dancing as Rachel’s son Fletcher (a role that will be shared by four youngsters).
It’s not a great show - the dialogue is clunky and sometimes unintentionally hilarious (“Frank comes everywhere” is just one of many howlers) - but it’s a crowd-pleaser with awesome songs and, in Beverley Knight, a bona fide star.
The Bodyguard is at the Dominion Theatre, London, until January 7th 2017. Call 0845 200 7982 or visit thebodyguardmusical.com.
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Words by Simon Button
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