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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Bodyguard
Adelphi Theatre 2012 - 2014; Dominion Theatre 2016

The Bodyguard is a good, solid, honest musical. It delivers what it says on the label, and gives its audience exactly what they come for a live version of the popular 1992 movie. If it doesn't do much more than that, if there's nothing especially special about it well, this audience doesn't want more. 

I'm not damning with faint praise or patronising the people who will enjoy this. As I have asserted before, the special-occasion good-night-out audience is a legitimate population with a legitimate desire to be entertained, and The Bodyguard gives them respect and value for money.

(What it doesn't do is reach beyond a duplication of the film experience as, say, the stage versions of The Lion King or Mary Poppins did. As the Holiday Inn hotel chain used to promise, there are no surprises the audience gets exactly what they expect, no less and no more.) 

Alexander Dinelaris's adaptation of Lawrence Kasdan's screenplay tells the same story a pop star threatened by a stalker is given an all-business security man. After initial friction they fall in love (or at least in bed), but that threatens his professionalism and he has to step back to be able to do his job. 

The musical's makers have plugged in fifteen songs by various writers, in the magpie mode of a film soundtrack, ranging from Jesus Loves Me through I'm Every Woman and Saving All My Love to the inevitable I Will Always Love You. There is little difficulty shoehorning the songs into the story, as all but one or two are presented as performances, rehearsals or recording sessions. 

Heather Headley is attractive and sexy and generates some of the excitement of a real pop star, and with considerable assistance from the sound engineer fully delivers on the score's anthems and power ballads, though the mix tape she's asked to sing makes it hard for her to pin down her character, as from song to song she jumps among Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Tina Turner and Lady Gaga. (Note that, in the all-too-common practice, someone else plays this role 'at certain performances'.) 

Lloyd Owen has the laconic, all-business bodyguard down pat from the start, maintaining the updated-Bogart persona just this side of self-parody in a way that is both thoroughly winning and technically impressive as an acting exercise. 

He even gets to sing at one point, quite pleasantly, in one of the musical's occasional arch self-referential jokes (You'll see what I mean)*, and it is his clearly-defined character more than Headley's more nebulous one that holds the show together. 

Director Thea Sharrock and her design team reach for a cinematic feel through the use of film and TV sequences and the iris-in and split-screen effect of stage masking, with no particular effect, and the raced-through plot leaves little room for Debbie Kurrup as the star's jealous sister or Mark Letheren as the stalker to make much impression.

(*Later note: he sings I Will Always Love You.)

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Bodyguard - Adelphi Theatre 2012   

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