Beverley is STILL Queen of the Knight!
Talk about "One Moment in Time," the Queen of British Soul delivers a plethora of moments that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up in the West End return engagement of The Bodyguard. Of course, she knows the role of Rachel Marron inside out by now, having took over the role from Heather Headley in September 2013 in the West End premiere at the Adelphi Theatre. Now the musical thriller is back after an extensive UK tour (starring Alexandra Burke) and returns to an even bigger venue with the Dominion.
Producers have decided to use the slightly downscaled set used during the tour rather than the set from the Adelphi (so, gone is the huge, rotating forrest cabin, folks) but Tim Hatley's clever design with both horizontal and vertical-moving shutters creates a number of 'windows' of various sizes, through which we view each scene. The resulting effect is that the set never feels engulfed by the massive Dominion stage. There are a few other subtle alterations, along with the addition of Whitney's last hit from 2009 ("Million Dollar Bill"), but otherwise it is business as usual and - full disclosure - this show is my ultimate guilty pleasure.
I have to admit there is a slight fundamental problem with The Bodyguard in that the type of crowd it seems to draw is the one that loves a musical comedy, makes inappropriate noises at inappropriate points of the show and just longs to get up on its feet and dance with somebody at the curtain call. However, this is a dark story of a top celebrity scared to death by the very real threat of a stalker. It involves harrassment and even murder and I actually feel the cast deserve more respect for the intensity of the drama. Yes, of course we all want to hear those amazing Whitney Houston songs, but the book is equally gripping. Unlike other jukebox musicals (that may or may not have played in this same venue over the years), the music never feels mercilessly or senselessly shoe-horned into the narrative. Indeed there is a perfect balance between musical numbers being performed in natural settings (nightclub concerts, dance rehearsals, karaoke bars or recording session scenes) and in traditional musical theatre devices, where someone breaks into song to further the narrative or give character depth. A personal highlight for me is always "Run To You," where both Rachel and her sister Nicki Marron perform a duet whilst in seperate rooms, confessing their love for Frank. Rachel John gives a phenomenal performance the entire evening as the overshadowed sister Nicki and holds her own alongside the powerful vocals of Ms Knight. She also delivers a beautiful rendition of "Saving All My Love" and proves her acting chops, especially during her final scene.
Whilst some of the other characters feel a little one-dimensional - the superficial publicist Sy Spector and the big lug of a security guy Tony Scibelli - Ben Richards does a fine job with the male lead role of Frank Farmer, which is always a rather difficult and thankless role. The character is so wooden (apart from the much-needed karaoke scene where he shows off his terrible singing skills) and this works fine on film, but translates rather less well on the stage. At the end of the day though this is "The Beverley Knight Show" and this unassuming diva once again shows she is more than capable of carrying the musical on her shoulders and hammering home probably the most difficult sing currently on stage in London. To be able to get through the shear number of power ballads and upbeat tracks each night is nothing short of astounding and she deserves every round of applause and standing ovation that gets thrown at her after performances of "I Have Nothing" and "I Will Always Love You."
This may be the last time The Bodyguard graces the West End stage and for fans of Whitney Houston and for theatre aficionados, this is most definitely worth a re-visit.
This is a new review. For our 2013 review, click HERE.
What the Press Said...
"Powering through hit after hit with force, control and vocal acrobatics that (almost) live up to Whitney’s, she is nothing short of astounding to watch."
Lucinda Everett for The Telegraph
"Beverley Knight reprises the Houston role as under-threat global mega-hit singer Rachel Marron, and by far the best news of the evening is that she belts outs the songs with soulful oomph, reaching the furthest corners of the barn-like Dominion."
Fiona Mountford for The Evening Standard