Review Round-up: Headley hits high notes in Bodyguard
Directed by Thea Sharrock, the show features classic Whitney songs including "One Moment in Time", "Saving All My Love", "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and, of course, "I Will Always Love You".
The Bodyguard has a book is by Alex Dinelaris, designs by Tim Hatley, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Richard Brooker. Choreography is by Arthur Pita, orchestrations by Chris Egan and musical supervision by Mike Dixon. It is produced by Michael Harrison and David Ian.
Heather Headley is a soul sister knockout as Rachel Marron, Queen of the Night, the Whitney Houston role in the 1992 movie The Bodyguard, now recycled as a romantic pop rock opera with all the big hits and a flattened out, theatrical story-line... Film fans will love the plethora of numbers, Arthur Pita's electric musical staging and hyperbolic show-time routines, Debbie Kurup's fine performance as Rachel’s jealous sister, and will be relieved that Sean Chapman, not Gary Kemp, is playing the PR man... All credit to a hot, snazzy band under Richard Beadle, the lighting of Mark Henderson and the cheerful contributions of Chapman, Ray Shell and Nicolas Colicos as the backing group entourage who never break sweat. And those who love the songs will probably need no further bidding.
The undoubted star of Sharrock's stylish production is the extraordinary set - a series of mobile panels which open and close like a giant, mobile camera shutter, blinking in and out, and panning cinematographically in every direction... The Bodyguard is closer to a play with Whitney Houston songs, with many parts - notably Frank - being non-singing. As a result, Owen and Headley enjoy almost no chemistry, because they don't duet, they don't have very many lines and the lines they do have sound like dialogue from a computer game. Emotionally involving it is not... But there are other things to like: Tony-winning US actor Headley offers showstopping vocals with minimum fuss and Houston's ballads are all smartly contextualised... Watching The Bodyguard is like watching a slick Hollywood blockbuster unfold live in front of you, and that's no bad thing
Heather Headley is mesmerising in this stage version of the early Nineties film that starred the late Whitney Houston as diva Rachel Marron... It’s much better than that suggests – enjoyable and more than a little camp... Owen is a solid presence, bringing a curt dryness to a part in which he doesn’t actually have a lot to do. The chemistry between the leads doesn’t smoulder. Nor are Frank’s insights into the art of protection much better than laughable. But Debbie Kurup is passionately soulful as Rachel’s envious sister Nicki, and in smaller roles there’s decent work, with Mark Letheren genuinely creepy as Rachel’s stalker... It’s refreshing that, despite its obvious American roots, this is a new musical that has been developed in Britain. And it’s a feelgood show to boot. What’s missing is a sense of danger. That, and true emotional depth.
Thea Sharrock has done a remarkable job. Her production, spectacularly and ingeniously designed by Tim Hatley, is far more enjoyable than the movie. And there is a thrilling star performance from the Trinidad-born, American-based singer and actress Heather Headley, who, when it comes to selling a song, hitting the high notes and ornamenting a number with vocal swoops and trills, struck me as being at least as fine a singer as Houston in her heyday, if not even better... But that is largely where the good news ends. Though Alexander Dinelaris has tweaked Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay, the show remains trite and sentimental, while Lloyd Owen proves sourly humourless and gruff as the bodyguard... But with all the big Whitney Houston hits superbly delivered by Headley and a cracking pit band, I suspect it is destined for a long and lucrative run.
Lawrence Kasdan has recorded his surprise at the idea of his screenplay for the 1992 movie, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, being used as the basis for a musical. My own reaction, having seen the finished product, is more one of mild dismay. Although the show is staged with enormous technical efficiency, it is one more example of the necrophiliac musical morbidly attracted to a cinematic corpse... Kasdan's original screenplay, reportedly rejected 37 times, was pretty silly to start with. But it's not made any more persuasive by the need to highlight the songs. It's always good to hear the old Dolly Parton number, “I Will Always Love You”, as we do several times during the evening. “Queen of the Night”, part written by Houston herself with a mild nod to Mozart, also makes its mark.
It’s loud, it’s soupy, yet it makes for a pumpy, undemanding evening... Director Thea Sharrock gives us so many scene changes that it’s a bit like being on a train. The incessant movement takes our mind off some clunky story-telling... The thing is shamelessly a Hollywood rip-off, with projected film clips on enormous screens. That dilutes the stage drama, but there are lots of full-tonsil ballads and some genuine moments of suspense. Corny? Yes. But a perfect end of the day for couples on a shopping trip to London.