Grammy award-winning singer and actress Rachel Marron has a stalker, and he’s getting bolder and cleverer by the minute. Enter bodyguard Frank Farmer, a rather emotion-less figure with a guilt complex, who is charged with the protection of Rachel, her son Fletcher and her sister Nicki.
Echoing the successful 1992 film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, this musical diverges slightly from the well-known plot, but all the key moments that a fan of the film would be looking for are incorporated into this stage musical, which premiered in London in 2012.
The strength of the film lay in its soundtrack, and that is definitely what makes this musical so enjoyable. Filled to the brim with iconic songs made famous by Houston: including “One moment in time”, “Saving all my love for you”, and the iconic “I will always love you” as well as the music written for the film, it was the music that kept me engaged from start to finish.
Samantha Mbolekwa shone as Rachel Marron, weaving her way through the emotional acting rollercoaster of the part with impressive talent… and taking the roof of the Regent Theatre with her outstanding vocals. How she had the energy left in the tank for THAT final song, and then the encore, was beyond understanding. Props also to casting director Beth Eden for pairing her up with Emily-Mae as Nicki, whose voice in her solo numbers was absolutely sublime. More than the vocals though, they were a totally believable family, completed by the phenomenal Kaylenn Aires Fonseca who stole every scene as Fletcher and gave the ensemble dancers a run for their money. Personally, I found the relationship between Rachel and her bodyguard a little flat, and I found that I was left wanting more from the character of Frank.
Marios Nicolaides’ performance as the creepy and obsessive Stalker was pitched perfectly and gave me chills on more than one occasion. However, I was a little surprised how far the Stalker went to terrorise some of the characters, given that I had assumed that this was a typical feel-good commercial theatre offering.
The show uses a fair amount of digital projection to enhance the stalker’s character and to bring the audience in to some of the pop numbers, and overall this was a successful device. However, it was the lighting that really let the show down last night. The design was good, but for some reason the spotlights seemed to be in the wrong places, which left me as an audience member feeling frustrated and I can only imagine how distracting it must have been on stage to have the lights flicking around and never quite hitting the mark. There were also a couple of moments where the lights used to emulate a pop stage flashed out into the audience, but they were so bright they almost burned the eyes! Maybe I’m just not used to modern pop concerts, but this seemed a strange choice given the demographic in the audience, which was almost exclusively women of a certain age who were reliving their Kevin Costner dreams to brighten up a rainy Monday night!
Overall, this production delivered exactly what it promised: a fun night out, with a belting soundtrack, and technical glitches aside which I’m sure will be fixed by now, definitely a production worth seeing.
The Bodyguard: The Musical continues at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent until Saturday 4th March. Information and ticket links can be found here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-bodyguard/regent-theatre/. The show will continue to tour the UK until the end of 2023, with information and ticket links to be found here: https://www.thebodyguardmusical.com/.
Please note the content warnings before booking: “repetitive flashing lights and visual effects, pyrotechnics, theatrical fire, smoke and haze, gunshots, loud sound effects and scenes of mild peril”.
Reviewer: Jo Tillotson
Reviewed: 27th February 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★★