Birmingham’s Essential Entertainment Guide
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This will mark the third time that I have had the pleasure of watching the stage production of The Bodyguard, including a much earlier date of the current tour in Wolverhampton. The show plays at The Alexandra in Birmingham for the next ten days or so and its popularity is reflected in its near sell-out status.
The book has been respectfully adapted to the stage from the 1992 film by Alexander Dinelaris and Director Thea Sharrock has done an exceptional job of getting it up on its feet. Her work alongside Tim Hatley - who designed the set - is of utmost importance because it is so technically complex. As a collaborative project, it works seamlessly.
The stage show has a superb filmic quality. Whilst the vast expanse of the Alexandra stage is used in its entirety during heavily choreographed musical numbers, the more intimate scenes are often ‘boxed’ in with the use of fly pieces and sliders. These are then lit around the inner edges as part of Mark Henderson’s lighting design to define the area. Henderson has a great ability to provide concert-style, big visuals on one hand but also softer and more subtly lit scenes with equal competency.
One of the key areas that must not be compromised on is the music, due to the fact that Whitney Houston’s music is so iconic. Richard Beadle’s musical supervision and direction from Michael Riley cannot be faulted. The orchestrations have added theatricality to the original songs and Karen Bruce has fully utilised these in her energetic choreography, of which the ensemble deliver impeccably.
Alexandra Burke leads the company as Rachel Marron, a role that she originally took on back in 2014. In Wolverhampton last year, I saw Jennlee Shallow in the main role and did miss a lot of what Burke brought to the role when I first saw her in 2015. There is so much good in Burke’s performance; her strength being her belt vocals during the numbers with ‘One Moment In Time’ being a particular highlight. However, I did feel a little complacency in her acting this time around and bizarrely, she appeared to almost sing her spoken lines. This said, she has an undeniable presence and is much more suited to the role than her alternate.
Ben Lewis is a strong male lead but is also able to show his more vulnerable side during the karaoke bar scene and in his relationship with Rachel’s son, Fletcher. A mention must also be given to Phil Atkinson who plays the stalker. Assisted by the technical elements around him, he is greatly sinister but also incredibly easy on the eye!
The resounding star of the show however was Emmy Willow, who plays Nicki Marron. Her vocals are unbelievable and there were multiple times during the performance when I found myself mouthing ‘wow!’ A special moment is Willow singing with Burke during ‘Run To You’. It felt a little like a sing-off at times but their harmonies when they came together were sublime.
A technical masterclass of a show, from both the cast and production team.
The Bodyguard plays at The Alexandra, Birmingham until Saturday 1 February.
**** Four stars
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