WHEN Whitney Houston died earlier this year, admirers worldwide mourned her passing. Her hits rang out from every radio station and friends, family and fans paid tribute to one of the most successful female singers of all time.
Last night the production opened at The Adelphi Theatre on the Strand. While one might have expected it to be a rather schmaltzy tribute show, The Bodyguard is anything but.
I never saw the 1992 film and have never considered myself to be a Houstonfan, so my expectations for the evening were not especially high. Yet the truth is that neither is a prerequisite for seeing the show.
The storyline is pretty simple. Rachel Marron is a hugely successful pop singer who has a mystery stalker. Former Secret Service agent Frank Farmer is hired to protect her and try and track down the unsavoury character. The singer and her bodyguard clash at first, then gradually overcome their differences and fall in love.
There are no hidden depths to this tale, so don’t go expecting Shakespeare or Chekhov.
However, that does not stop it from being a thoroughly enjoyable show with something all too often absent from the theatre – the feel-good factor. US actress Heather Headley is outstanding in the lead role. Her powerful voice is magnificent and she glows with charisma.
Rachel’s sister Nicki is played by Debbie Kurup, another female powerhouse. The male lead is played by Lloyd Owen, who is not quite Kevin Costner but comes a pretty good second. Rachel has a son, Fletcher, who is played by one of six different boys. On the night I went, it was the turn of Malaki Paul – who you may recall from the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent last year.
If you’re someone who doesn’t especially like musical theatre, The Bodyguard could be the show to convert you. On the whole, the characters do not spontaneously burst into song. The music is integrated and the story has not been adapted to be told through Whitney’s greatest hits.
I was surprised at how many of Whitney’s songs I actually knew and just how catchy some of them are. By the end of the show, I was up in the aisles with the rest of the audience singing, dancing and – I confess – even whooping, to the sounds of I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
The Bodyguard at The Adelphi Theatre is currently booking until 27 April 2013