In my opinion, no-one can beat Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner’s performances in the 1992 smash-hit movie, The Bodyguard.
But after watching Emily-Mae Walker and Ayden Callaghan (Emmerdale, Hollyoaks), in The Bodyguard: The Musical, at Hull New Theatre on Monday evening, they certainly could give the superstars a run for their money.
A frisson of disappointment ran through the theatre on hearing Pussycat Doll, Melody Thornton, would not be playing the role of Rachel Marron, on stage that night. Her understudy, Walker, would be stepping into her shoes.
According to the glossy programme, Walker usually plays Marron’s sister, Nicki, but on this occasion that role went to Rosie Cava Beale, and a great job she did of it, too.
Callaghan plays ex-Secret Service agent, Frank Farmer, assigned to look after singing superstar, Marron, who has been receiving threatening letters and suffered scary happenings in her own home.
The singer, mother to young Fletcher (an amazing performance from Manasseh Mapira), is reluctant to have her freedom curtailed by Farmer, doing her utmost to make him leave, until events conspire to put her and her 10-year-old son in real danger. Only then does she realise the need for protection. Callaghan as Farmer can protect me anytime, but I digress…
There is a shocking twist to the story, ending in tragedy for one of the main characters, but lust, love, fear, jealousy and ambition also rear their ugly heads.
And the ending could be classed as bittersweet.
A few minutes after 7.30pm, a loud explosion (part of the story) meant all eyes focused on the stage and from that moment on it was action all the way, including another jump-out-of-the-skin moment later on.
The brightly lit stage included bursts of real flames (I could feel the heat from these, sitting in Row O), with a dimly lit backdrop revealing the more sinister actions.
Sequinned costumes – worn by Walker, Beale and the dancers – glittered in the lights and talented musicians, conducted by Sam Hall, added to the lively atmosphere, from the front-of-theatre orchestra pit.
Walker, as Marron, did more than justice to the smash-hits made famous by Houston. Songs such as Queen Of The Night, Run To You, Where Do Broken Hearts Go, How Will I Know, Greatest Love Of All, and, of course, the belter – I Will Always Love You, sung beautifully by her, but not so beautifully by Callaghan who, as Farmer, is persuaded to do a karaoke version of it, much to our amusement.
Callaghan perfectly portrayed Costner’s role as Farmer, with his quiet, yet authoritative voice; and the chemistry between him and Walker was palpable.
Beale, as Nicki, also had a lovely, clear and tuneful singing voice. The cuteness award on the night must go to young Mapira. As Fletcher, he sang, danced and never forgot his lines, projecting them in a loud, clear voice.
A disembodied voice pre-curtain up, asked us not to join in with the singing until the show’s end. We obeyed, only singing along to the closing song, I Wanna Dance With Somebody – every member of the audience on their feet, loudly showing their appreciation for an unforgettable show.
Running until Saturday, July 15th, 2023; 7.30pm nightly with a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday, 15th. Tickets cost from £19. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 10th July 2023
North West End UK Rating: