Review: The Bodyguard at New Victoria Theatre, Woking
The Bodyguard has been around for a while. I took my mum and dad to a West End matinee a couple of years ago when they were visiting, and we had a lovely day out. There’s no doubt the music is spine-tingling good. And now it’s coming to Woking for two weeks. Our Muddy Queen, Hero in Bucks/Oxon, caught up with the all-out crowd-pleasing campness of it when it was in her neck of the woods.
The outfits! The dancing! The lights! Yes, I’m just back from The Bodyguard at the New Theatre in Oxford, starring Alexandra Burke and some bloke who looks like Eric Cantona (Stuart Reid as it happens) and still slightly dazed by the spectacle.
This is a musical, based of course on the Whitney-and-Kevin snogfest, that makes no apology for the all out commercial use of Whitney’s incredible back-catalogue. Alexandra Burke manages to belt out almost all of the biggest hits (I Wanna Dance With Somebody; I Will Always Love You etc) with a huge X-Factor style lighting rig and a bevy of backing dancers gyrating behind her (one of the male contingent being particularly FIT! Just saying).
Its X-Factorness was at times a problem. The musical was at its least successful when the songs were sung almost for their own sake, rather than driving the story forward. It felt in a couple of the songs that we were watching Alexandra Burke performing a Whitney tribute show rather than playing a role in a theatrical production. Not Burke’s fault, just a clunky shoe-horning in of as many Whitney tunes as possible.
That issue dissipated as the storyline of the stalker kicked in, and the relationship between bodyguard Frank Farmer, Rachel Marron and her less successful sister Nikki, played beautifully by Melissa James, started to develop.
The acting was always going to come second to the music and it felt that way at times – as if the cast were rattling off the lines to get to the next song – but it wasn’t bad, sometimes it was good and I stayed engaged in the show so there’s not much to moan about really. Alexandra Burke was better than I thought she’d be – her smoky, American delivery felt authentic, though she won’t be holding out hope for a RADA place any time soon.
One thing that was interesting was that watching this show made me realise how amazing Whitney Houston’s voice was. Alexandra Burke has a strong, smoky, sensual sound, and I’m not sure anyone else would have performed much better (well, maybe Beyonce, or Kelly Rowlands), but she’s no Whitney Houston, having to make real effort in the low and top registers. Melissa James as Nikki had a purer voice that at times I preferred, though she became a bit more reedy in the high notes (this pronouncement made by someone who sings like a foghorn – forgive me, but I have to let you know this stuff!). But these are small points really. Clearly these girls can seriously sing, and Burke in particular has learnt how to work that stage through her X-Factor days.
As an, ahem, experienced purveyor of romantic kisses on stage and screen, there was some welcome chemistry between Burke and Reid, though I would’ve shoved Frank Farmer into some Cuban heels to elevate him slightly, so that in the kissing scene it didn’t look quite like Alexandra Burke was going to devour his very eyeballs. But *sniff*, this is a small point. They gave it some welly in the romantic scenes, hats off to them!
As always let me know if you make it and whether you enjoy the show – I know I’ve said it before, but knowledge is power, peeps!
The Bodyguard runs until 9 April. New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, GU21 6GQ, Tel: 0844 871 7645. Tickets: £18.50-£52.50. atgtickets.com