Question: What starts with a loud gunshot and finishes with a bang. Answer: The Bodyguard.
Alexander Dinelaris’s book is certainly bought to life at Milton Keynes Theatre this week, for what started as an 1992 Oscar-nominated film has now been turned into a high-calibre, high-octane romantic musical thriller starring 2008 X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke in the lead role of iconic US pop superstar Rachel Marron.
Having enjoyed Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner performances in the original Warner Bros movie, by bringing the story to the stage it has given The Bodyguard a whole new lease of life and, if anything, I think it’s now even better than the original. And you only have to ask Wednesday’s night’s audience who will testify to that as they jumped to their feet to sing along to the show’s rousing final number ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’.
Featuring many more songs than were used in the film, the stage version seems to have the entire back catalogue by the late, great Miss Houston while Alexandra Burke must surely be in danger of burning herself out if she continues to belt out those big numbers night after night… she is magnificent.
Briefly the story features ex-Secret FBI Agent Frank Farmer (Stuart Reid) who is hired to protect multi-Grammy award winner Rachel Marron (Burke) from a creepy stalker who somehow gets into her dressing room when she is on stage and steals a dress.
However she isn’t too impressed with her newly-hired protector and she tries to ignore Farmer’s advice about the security in her lavish mansion, despite pleas by her management entourage regarding her personal safety.
It’s all too obvious that the pair will end up falling for each other although Rachel’s little sister Nicki Marron (Rachel John) also has her sights set on the handsome hired help. The story and tension builds and takes us to the lavish Oscar ceremony at which Miss Burke sings the iconic ‘One Moment in Time’, a rousing number which the BBC successfully used to accompanied their coverage of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
With other favourites like ‘Saving All My Love’, ‘Run to You’ and Whitney’s biggest success ‘I Will Always Love You’ – even though it was written by Dolly Parton! – Miss Burke certainly made the part her own and she also managed to hold her own in some of the energetic dance numbers.
However for me it was her ‘sister’ Nicki (Rachel John) who had the more melodic voice although they duetted beautifully on a couple of occasions. Then there was Rachel Marron’s ten-year-old son Fletcher – played each night by one of six different child actors – although on this occasion it was Roshawn Hewitt who was a real delight… and had all the moves like a young Michael Jackson!
Stuart Reid played the part of stern-faced Frank Farmer very well and surely took his lead from Kevin Costner – I loved his cringeworthy karaoke-bar number! – while Matthew Strathers takes on the part of the gun-totting The Stalker in an extremely sinister manner.
As a mysterious psychopath, Matthew doesn’t actually utter a single word yet he still sent a chill throughout the audience and managed to ratchet up the tension as he breaks into Frank Farmer’s lakeside cabin. Meanwhile his cheeky grin when he was booed in the finale said it all!
With enormous screen projections and some of the finest shifting on-stage sets that I have ever seen on the Milton Keynes stage, we are also treated to some dramatic pyrotechnics, the heat from which must surely have scorched the eyebrows of most of the occupants in the front few rows of the stalls!
With dazzling costumes and a string of show-stopping numbers, The Bodyguard is worthy vehicle for those memorable Whitney Houston songs but it’s far more than that and the whole cast should be congratulated on what is a dazzling spectacular show.
If you’re looking to have a great night out and want to witness a real five star performance, then don’t miss it.
The Bodyguard plays Milton Keynes until Saturday, April 23 which tickets available from £18.50 (booking fees apply) which can be booked by calling the box office on 0844 871 7652 or visit www.atgtickets.co.uk/miltonkeynes.