Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, book by Alex Dinelaris
Adelphi Theatre, The Strand, London WC2R 0NS
Booking through June 1, 2013
Another show has come to the West End that piggy-backs itself on a performer’s music catalogue. The newest West End entry in this genre is The Bodyguard, based on the 1992 smash movie which starred Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, and includes several Whitney songs not in the movie.
The musical of the movie follows the exact same plot: Superstar singer and actress Rachel Marron (played by American Heather Headley) and her young son need to be protected from a stalker (a creepy Mark Letheren), so a bodyguard is hired for her in the guise of Frank Farmer (Lloyd Owen). Marron initially feels that she doesn’t need a bodyguard, but she has not been made aware by her team that someone is stalking her. However, once she finds out that this stalker has been sending her obsessive and frightening letters, she embraces the idea of a bodyguard ...and falls for him as well. In the meantime, she has been nominated for two Oscars and needs to be seen out in public during this time. However, it seems like she is not safe anywhere, as the stalker knows which bar Frank took her to and where they went out of town to escape from him. Will their romance endure up to and after the Oscars ceremony? Will Rachel and her son and the rest of her crew be safe from the stalker?
While the movie was able to convey this story very well, the stage version struggles to match it. The scenes between Rachel and Frank are stiff; their romance just isn’t very believable. Headley and Letheren don’t quite pull this off, though Owen is good in a bodyguard role that is mostly just to stand around (he does actually sing in one scene). The most dramatic and important scene comes near the end of the show while Rachel is performing at the Oscars. It is not well choreographed, acted, nor believable, and could’ve been more explosive and surprising.
Headley, a Tony and Grammy award-winning actress and singer, doesn’t quite pull off the acting scenes. Yet when it comes to the musical portions of the show – wow! The stage is hers and hers alone. Headley belts out several of the songs made famous by the film, including I’m Every Woman, I Have Nothing, and the big hit I Will Always Love You, and while she doesn’t match Whitney Houston’s vocals, she makes the songs her own with a huge stage voice and commanding presence (including the amazing sequinned dresses she wears). Her song performances are the highlight of The Bodyguard.
There are also very good supporting performances by Debbie Kurup who plays her sister and manager, and Letheren as the stalker. And while the theater-goer may think that the stage version of The Bodyguard is a tribute to the late Whitney Houston, it really isn’t, though her memory and voice will be in the back of your mind throughout this show.