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Live / stage review

"An enjoyable piece of escapism": The Bodyguard at the Lyceum

The stage adaptation of the 1992 Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner film shines in its production values and musical delivery – in the face of some hammier moments.

10 October 2023 at
THE BODYGUARD Emily Williams Rachel Marron Photo Paul Coltas 2

Emily Williams as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard.

Paul Coltas

Based on the 1992 film of the same name, The Bodyguard is the story of Rachel Marron, a pop diva who receives threats from a stalker, leading her manager to employ Frank Farmer, a former secret service agent and the best bodyguard in the business. His aloof, professional approach initially causes him to clash with the headstrong singer, but as they work together they get closer and closer – but so does the threat to her and her family from her obsessive fan.

This show sits somewhere between a jukebox musical and a film adaptation, providing a watered-down version of the plot but placing the songs of Whitney Houston at the heart of the show to bring the proceedings together. Despite there being no denying the quality of the songs in this production, there was such a slew of musical numbers shoehorned into the first act in particular that it felt at times like Whitney The Musical.

Any actor taking on the role of Rachel Marron has some big shoes to fill, as comparisons to Whitney are impossible to avoid. After some initial reservations, I quickly warmed to Emily Williams, who manages to hit the high notes with her performance, especially in her renditions of the more iconic 'I Have Nothing' and 'One Moment In Time'. The most anticipated number was, of course, 'I Will Always Love You' – and Williams didn’t disappoint.

In terms of its presentation, The Bodyguard was a mixed bag. Emily-Mae showcased some talented vocals as the downtrodden sister of the show’s superstar and overall the production values were high-end, with bold and detailed sets, some slick scene changes, a nicely-paced narrative and an excellent sound and lighting design, all of which came together to provide a polished and professional look.

THE BODYGUARD Ayden Callaghan Frank Farmer and Emily Mae Nicki Marron Photo Paul Coltas

Ayden Callaghan as Frank Farmer and Emily-Mae as Nicki Marron in The Bodyguard.

Paul Coltas

Conversely, there was some heavy-handed direction, some genuinely cringe-worthy moments, flat characterisations and a brief and regressive handling of an LGBT+ character. Unfortunately, there was also some rather hammy overacting from the cast, notably Ayden Callaghan (Hollyoaks, Emmerdale), who presents with the physical gravitas required as the titular bodyguard, but whose performance came across as more stilted and wooden than aloof.

Quibbles aside, the draw here is the musical numbers and they are executed with aplomb by the cast and ensemble, with a collection of big production numbers and some lively routines. There is plenty for fans of both the film and of Whitney to enjoy, and plenty for those who are unfamiliar with either to find pleasure in too. Ultimately, The Bodyguard is a fairly disposable, crowd-pleasing theatrical production which was ultimately a fun, entertaining and enjoyable piece of escapism, and one which delivers on both what it promises and what audiences will expect.

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