Words by Amelia Daly / Production pics by Paul Cotas
The Bodyguard musical starts with a bang, both literally and figuratively.
Just as everyone took their seats at the gala night, we heard gunshots, setting the tone for an evening that promises fun and killer tension. The opening number is sexy and fiery, with live pyro engulfing the stage, creating an intense and captivating atmosphere.
Emily Williams, portraying Rachel Marron, steps onto the stage. Her costume could use some refitting but her voice more than compensates, leaving everyone spellbound by her lungs.
Based on the 90s film, the story follows Marron, a superstar in need. A relentless stalker plagues her, so in comes Frank Farmer portrayed by Ayden Callaghan (known from Emmerdale and Hollyoaks) as her hired bodyguard. Their inevitable love story begins to unfold amidst thrilling moments, including a love triangle with her sister, and a soundtrack filled with Whitney Houston’s iconic discography.
Emily Williams’ incredible voice not only shines but also takes command of the stage, creating a mesmerising experience for the audience. But while her accent remains consistently impressive, the same might not be said for the rest of the cast.
Williams also excels in portraying a convincing mother, instilling genuine fear for both her family’s safety and her own. Her performance is a testament to her ability to convey authenticity and emotional depth. But while her character feels believable, there are moments when supporting actors let the production down.
Emily-Mae, who plays Marron’s sister, delivers an incredible performance in both acting and singing, fully immersing herself in the character and every emotional moment. Both actors induce goosebumps with their breathtaking voices.
However, the soundtrack’s immense popularity sometimes overshadows the acting scenes, making one yearn for the musical numbers to resume. It is no surprise The Bodyguard has the best-selling soundtrack of all time.
In 2023, the musical might feel slightly outdated. Some jokes miss their mark, and the use of massive projections of the leads’ faces during scene changes lacks some emotional depth.
When Rachel is in trouble a somewhat cliche slow-motion sequence occurs, diminishing the gravity of the moment and hampering the actors’ performances. I feel, however, that the production intentionally embraces these tropes and understands its purpose and target audience.
The second act begins with the bodyguard in bed and Marron fawning over him. I couldn’t help but giggle as I remember the review I received in the interval toilets queue: “He is not a great actor but I wouldn’t kick him out of bed’. Callaghan’s performance summed up perfectly; his accent and acting was questionable, soapy at many points and lacking intention for a majority of lines. But they got around the fact that he couldn’t sing by adding in a fun and intimate karaoke scene, which worked well.
Sex sells and it is definitely a selling point here. The actor who plays the stalker may only have a few lines but he makes up for it with topless scenes. Sensually pulling out a knife and running it down his shoulders, making murder very sexy.
Overall, The Bodyguard capitalises on its strengths. It’s a fun, entertaining show with incredible music and dance numbers. However, some acting moments lack depth and intentionality from the main characters.
Still, it’s hard to deny the infectious joy of singing and dancing along to hits like ‘I Want to Dance with Somebody.’ It caters to a particular audience and does so successfully—what’s not to enjoy about that?
The Bodyguard runs at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, until 30 December – with a range of tickets from £13/26.50 to £83.50
For more information and links to online ticket sales visit www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-bodyguard/the-alexandra-theatre-birmingham