The Bodyguard the musical has recently opened as the latest show in London at the Adelphi theatre in the heart of London’s West End.
It has received a mixed reception and various critical reviews.
The Telegraph’s Charles Spencer called it “proof that if you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, you can sometimes come surprisingly close”. This almost seems a back-handed compliment but overall I think Charles liked the show.
The Guardian’s Michael Billington claimed it was “one more example of the necrophiliac musical morbidly attracted to a cinematic corpse”. Very harsh indeed.
However, there has been universal praise for Heather Headley in the lead role.
The former Broadway star, who is returning to musical theatre after a break of more than twelve years, won acclaim for her “sassy stage presence” and “vocal swoops and trills… at least as fine a singer as Houston in her heyday, if not even better,” wrote Spencer.
Whitney Houston was one of the world’s best selling singers of the ’80s and ’90s. She was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel room on the eve of the Grammy Awards in February 2012. Whitney starred in the film of The Bodyguard, opposite Kevin Costner, at the height of her fame in 1992.
The film’s screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan was rumoured to have been rejected some 37 times before it made it to the big screen, but despite its critics The Bodyguard the film went on to become one of the box office smashes of the year. I wonder if the same fate awaits the theatre show in London?
The stage version, at London’s Adelphi Theatre, has been reworked by Alexander Dinelaris putting Headley’s Rachel Marron at the centre of the action and beefing up the role of Rachel’s sister, and love rival, whilst also featuring more of Whitney Houston’s own catalogue of songs.
“The Bodyguard manages to fall simultaneously into two pretty suspect categories – the screen-to-stage adaptation and the jukebox musical,” wrote Paul Taylor in The Independent. But he adds: “The show is an altogether more pleasurable experience than that doubly dubious distinction might make it sound.”
“It’s loud, it’s soupy, it is as predictable as the tides – yet it makes for a pumpy, undemanding evening,” said Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail, labelling it “a modern romantic classic”.
There was also consistent positive credit amongst the critics for director Thea Sharrock’s “sleekly assured production which moves with a velvet fluency thanks to the screens that open and close like camera shutters in Tim Hatley’s handsome, canny design.”
“By no stretch of the imagination is The Bodyguard a great musical,” said the Telegraph critic Spencer, but Houston’s hits, expertly performed, makes him suspect the show “is destined for a long and lucrative run.”
The Bodyguard the musical was first dreamed up six years ago by Geordie theatre producer Michael Harrison, but Heather Headley who agreed to play the lead role before Whitney died, was worried people might think she was cashing in on the tragedy.
Thankfully, she was convinced to stay with the project – and she proves a tour de force in the show which had its world premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in The Strand, London, in December 2012.
BBC Entertainment Editor Gordon Barr said: “My problem with The Bodyguard has always been the storyline – even as a movie I just thought it was somewhat flimsy. The tale of former Secret Service agent Frank Farmer (Lloyd Owen) taking on the job of bodyguard to pop superstar Rachel Marron (Heather Headley) is rather weak – but it did the film no harm whatsoever and the same will probably be true of the musical.”
The main difference between the film and the theatre show is the musical numbers. The film had few, but the stage show has several more; all are Whitney Houston classics delivered in awesome style by Headley.
Similarly the supporting cast are superb. The vocal power of her co-stars is amazing, especially that of Debbie Kurup, who plays Rachel’s sister Nicki, and whose rendition of All The Man That I Need is both restrained and incredible at the same time.
“A jukebox musical, yes, but it packs an almighty punch” concludes Barr.
Shows in London enjoyed the show and as is most common in all theatre shows whether you enjoy a show or not is purely a matter of personal opinion.