The creative team behind the Adelphi’s The Bodyguard seem to have struck lucky for a third time. Having lost their original Rachel Marron, Heather Headley, back in 2013, and now the incredible Beverley Knight, this Olivier-winning show is now relying on one-time X Factor winner Alexandra Burke to fill the role made famous by Whitney Houston. Remarkably, they seem to have hit the jackpot: Burke is simply wonderful.
It will come as no surprise to fans that this 25 year old can belt out a tune, but what’s thrilling here is the way she commands the stage. What’s most surprising (and pleasing) though, is just how well she can act: she’s funny, warm, passionate and totally believable.
Generally The Bodyguard is at its best when it’s having its quieter moments. Certainly the scenes where Rachel is belting out pop hits for her adoring fans are spectacles for both the eyes and ears, but it’s when Burke isn’t hiding behind the microphone props and is singing as part of the narrative that she really shines. Both ‘Run To You’, reworked here as a duet, and act one closer ‘I Have Nothing’ are really special.
It’s not all about the leading lady, either. Michael Rouse is suitably creepy (if a little too handsome) as The Stalker, while Carole Stennett, as Rachel’s sister Nicki, is a triumph; it goes without saying that Tristan Gemmill, as Frank Farmer, the titular bodyguard, is perfectly cast.
For the most part, the show remains loyal to the movie – though there are some changes. Many of these deviations are necessary merely to help translate the story to the stage, but there are also one or two welcomed surprises – presumably to keep adoring film fans still guessing about what’s coming next. All of these work wonderfully to help ramp up the tension in the second half.
The show is further bolstered by the incredible, fluid and downright jaw-dropping choreography and staging; the latter being so inventive that the show manages to endlessly segue from concert scene to glorious LA mansion to snow-covered log cabin with both ease and aplomb. In fact in many ways, the cinematic touches of The Bodyguard’s impressive set are worth the ticket price alone.
If that’s not all, the show crescendos to the most iconic of closing numbers, suitably followed by a finale unmatched in exuberance and energy. Guaranteed to get you on your feet, it’s arguably the most crowd-pleasing ending to a show currently on in the West End.
The Bodyguard is showing at the Adelphi Theatre, London. Tickets are available here.