The Bodyguard, named Best New Musical at the 2013 WhatsOnStage Awards, is a show that nearly has everything - huge X-Factor style projections, slick sets that open and close like a camera shutter, great songs, a terrific ensemble of athletic dancers and backing singers, and now the fabulous Beverley Knight as Rachel Marron. It's just a pity then that the storyline - adapted from the hit 1992 film - is a predictable melodrama, full of schmaltz and sentimentality.
Threats from a deranged fan lead to superstar Marron's people hiring a bodyguard for her. She takes an instant dislike to bodyguard Frank (Tristan Gemmill, taking over from Lloyd Owen), before developing a grudging respect for him, especially when he befriends her young son (yes, there's even a cute child). It's not hard to guess where it all goes from there, via more threats from the stalker and a melodramatic denouement at the Oscars. There's a sub-plot about Rachel's jealous sister Nicki (Debbie Kurup) who also falls for Frank, but that's a slight thread that isn't explored to any degree.
Other than Rachel, the characters lack depth. Gemmill does his best with the role of Frank, but the character is underwritten, making him little more than a foil for the star. Kurup gives a feisty turn as Nicki, the sister who's living in her successful sister's shadow. And Michael Rouse plays psycho convincingly, earning him panto villain-style boos at the curtain call.
But it's not that the plot matters too much, as Thea Sharrock's production is driven by the songs. There's hit after memorable Whitney Houston hit, from "I'm Every Woman" to "One Moment In Time" to the iconic "I Will Always Love You", all delivered with Knight's perfect vocal agility, emotional depth and oodles of sass.
Comparisons with previous performers of this role, whether on film or stage, are unnecessary. In X Factor speak, Knight makes these songs and this role her own. She is totally believable as the superstar singer because that's exactly what she is. It's a five-star performance from Knight, who effortlessly outshines the rest of the show.
Read Michael Coveney's review of the original cast