Theatre Review: The Bodyguard - King's Theatre, Glasgow ✭✭✭✭

Review by Anna Ireland

The show starts with a bang, quite literally. The gunshot of a threatening stalker (Mike Denman) immediately merges a CSI-style narrative with the glitz and glamour of singer Rachel Marron’s (Alexandra Burke) showbiz life, introducing her need for bodyguard Frank Farmer (Stuart Reid).

Adapted from the 1992 film of the same name, the production’s UK tour follows a two year stint in London’s West End. It follows OuHousFarmer in his determination to save Marron from harm, going beyond the call of duty to protect her and her sister (Melissa James) and son. Inevitably, they fall in love. The relationship between the two is convincing and neither disappoint. The story is a romance with musical numbers at every opportunity, with 18 Whitney Houston classics including I Have Nothing and Saving All My Love ensuring that we are not dissatisfied. Burke is full of charm, pulling diva-like strops whilst transitioning to the more mellow love scenes with ease, while Reid has the right amount of authenticity and charm.

Here, the threat of danger has the potential to create intense drama; instead, it appears comical. It’s hard to make a killer feel menacing on stage when aligned next to a love story and soaring ballads, and the balance is not quite achieved. The humour appears silly and farcical and, combined with such a serious plotline, means that neither can be taken seriously. There are parts that feel genuinely scary, particularly in a club scene where his hooded appearance and flashing lights have the audience gripped to the edge of their seat, but this is a rare flash of sincerity. The climax of the ‘tension,’ a performance at the Oscars in which the stalker appears in the crowd, succeeds greatly in shock factor as the Farmer swoops in to save the day. It’s explosive in these moments of high drama, but never feels fully sincere next to romance and sparkling dance numbers.

This glitz of the celebrity world does generate dazzling performances. As the sister forever in Marron’s shadow, Melissa James is hugely impressive, whilst scenes with young son Fletcher provides moments of genuine tenderness and a sweet-as-honey voice. The vocal talent of the cast is outstanding, with more than a few hair-standing-on-end moments, particularly with Burke’s finale rendition of I Will Always Love You, to which she received a standing ovation.

The show is fun and lively in a Mamma Mia-esque fashion. The audience were dancing and whooping to final number I Wanna Dance with Somebody. It’s hard not to tap your feet to such undoubtedly good musical numbers, or observe in awe those who perform them. However, these voices steal an otherwise fairly empty and potentially comical show that fails to find the balance between romance and sincere tension. If you’re a Whitney Houston fan, it’s not one to be missed; for others, maybe it’s one to take with a light hearted nature and a pinch of salt. [And perhaps a couple of glasses of Chardonnay.]

The Bodyguard is at the King's Theatre, Glasgow until 14th March