Friday, 1 April 2016

REVIEW: The Bodyguard at the New Victoria Theatre, starring Alexandra Burke

Since it was announced the massively successful West End production of ‘The Bodyguard’ would be taking on a tour of its own from February 2015, it has sold out performances since day one and has been described as “the hottest ticket in town” by the Sunday Mirror. This smash-hit musical is based on the film of the same name, and features the greatest hits of Whitney Houston. 
I have previously reviewed the World Premiere Cast Recording of this show, which, like this performance, was led by X-Factor superstar Alexandra Burke. I was unimpressed by the album and described it as one of ‘poor variety’ leaving me feeling ‘severely underwhelmed’ and ‘massively disappointed’, however, this show is an absolute knockout. 

The New Victoria Theatre in Woking was overwhelmingly dominated by women, proving ‘The Bodyguard’ to be the perfect example of a girls’ night out. I invited my best friend along to keep me company; she isn’t a seasoned theatre-goer and before the show began, she was asking me “How can you tell when a show is about to start?” I said “The lights will go down, there will be an announcement telling you to turn your phones off and that video equipment is not permitted, and then the music will start.” But before I could finish my sentence, there was an almighty BANG, and lo, the show had explosively begun!

The cast in this show, all the way through, were absolutely incredible. Alexandra Burke is every inch the superstar as Rachel Marron and is the leading actress in this production. Barely a moment goes by when she’s not on the stage, belting her heart out. This role strikes me as incredibly gruelling. A mammoth 25 costume changes, and an exceptional amount of huge ballads to sing every evening like this will undoubtedly take their toll on the leading actress’s voice. Burke herself tweeted earlier that day she was feeling unwell. Nevertheless, her performance was mind-blowing. 

I severely under-estimated Burke, pegging her as just a singer, not a dancer,
however, she can move very well. Her acting also surpassed expectation and she proved herself to be really quite good at comedy, as well as the more intense, romantic scenes. Burke has become the ultimate triple-threat theatre performer. Her upbeat numbers were very sexy, energetic and captivating. You couldn’t ask for more of her: it was a performance Whitney Houston would have been proud of.  She received a full-house standing ovation before her final song even finished. The crowd were all on their feet for over five minutes applauding (and weeping at) her outstanding performance. 

Supporting Burke, as Marron’s sister ‘Nicki’ is Rachel John, whom I had the pleasure of seeing at West End Heroes 2015. It is not often I am left speechless, however, she rendered me illiterate for the second time with her performance in this show. Her voice is breath-taking. Her performance as the over-looked younger sister was poignant and very real. 

Stuart Reid is ‘Frank Farmer’ – the bodyguard. He sings only one song, and this is a very fleeting moment in the show, however, even against all the incredible female vocalists with whom he shares the stage with, Reid’s acting performance gives him some stand-out moments of his own. 

A silent star of the show is the stunning sets and costumes as designed by Tim
Hatley. The moving wall panels surrounding the performance space changed to reflect the intimacy of certain moments. For example, when Rachel is performing on a stage at a concert, the space is wide open, whereas when she is settling her son down for bed in her home, the panels are brought inwards and down to scale everything right down. It’s very clever, and original. 

This show is very big, bold and soulful. As reflected in the cast recording, there is very limited musical variety – it’s just solo after solo, however, it does stay true to Whitney Houston and her style, so it’ll be individual opinions which decide whether this is a good or bad thing. There are some brilliant moments of comedy and romance in this show as well as much darker, sinister moments. It’s a stellar night out, and for a special occasion to call the girls together and laugh, sing and cry – this is the show to go to.

Review by Harriet Langdown 


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