Review – The Bodyguard, Adelphi Theatre

Thursday 22 November 2012

Despite it having been 1992’s second-highest-grossing film* neither of the Whingers ever quite got round to seeing The Bodyguard. On the other hand no wild horses would have been required to get them to the sadly urrealised sequel starring Princess Diana as the romantic lead. We can only dream. In the meantime…

Since both Whitney Houston (who starred in the original) and Princess Di both met untimely ends it’s little wonder that Rihanna has apparently ruled out appearing in a remake.

Anyhoo Tony and Grammy-winning actress/singer Heather Headley now takes on the role of diva Rachel Marron, a six-time Grammy-winning superstar with two number ones (her number twos are not mentioned) in this musicalisation of the romantic thriller.

Well, actually Miss Headley only appears if you do not find yourself at one of the “certain performances” at which Gloria Onitiri fills in. Of course, the Whingers just happened to be at one of those “certain performances”. That is how their lives go.

Who knew? Not us. Not for the entire first act. We were blissfully unaware of any short-changing until the perky girls sitting behind us enlightened us at the interval. No wonder Onititri’s face didn’t match the video projections. We’re told Headley has quite a sensational voice but we shall never know.

We blame Elaine Paige who as far as we know started the trend in Evita and even if she didn’t she would have. You wouldn’t have caught Ethel Merman doing less than eight shows a week but for our preview (and we were not the only ones – just how many “certain performances” are there?) Headley was doing some promotional work for the show by performing at the Royal Variety Performance. Ah well, the greater good. Anyway, one of Phil’s letters is on its way to the theatre management.

Frank Farmer (“Frances” to his friends, we like to imagine) is a bodyguard. Or should that be “body-guard” or “body guard”? The production has rather bizarrely opted for BodyGuard for the logo.

Anyway, Farmer is assigned to protect the aforementioned Marron from a dangerous stalker (Mark Letheren), a man who has helicopter noises in his head and a penchant for sending creepy missives and pilfering glittery items from Rachel’s wardrobe.

At first Farmer and Marron don’t hit it off at all, mainly due to her being a grumpy cow, but even with our unfamiliarity with the source material we had an inkling as to where it was all heading.

Our problem was that her character is such an unlikable, self-obsessed (tellingly half the show’s numbers have ‘I’ in the title), stroppy sow that we were quickly rooting for the potential killer and praying that an early bullet between her eyes would enable us all to go home unexpectedly early.

What you make of it all probably depends a lot on your liking for overblown Whitney power ballads so beloved by the dwindling X-Factor audiences which have been shoe-horned in to ensure that the already rather underpowered plot grinds to a halt completely from time to time. The Whingers clearly aren’t attuned to this genre: standing outside the theatre during the interval reading the list of songs on the billboard they couldn’t say for sure which they had already heard and which were still to come.

Not that Onitiri doesn’t perform them well. She does (when we could hear them once the sound had settled down) and she certainly gave an impressively assured performance as she couldn’t, at this stage, have had many opportunities to perform the role in front of an audience.

There is a cheekily brave idea to have the first outing of show’s USP “I Will Always Love You” delivered in a karaoke bar by Frank. Lloyd Owen is rather good, actually. If you half-heartedly ironed Rich Hall’s face and had him mime to Lee Hazlewood records, Lloyd Owen is close to what you’d end up with. As well as being “the best in the business” when it comes to BodyGuarding, Frank boasts technology skills too – effortlessly switching from phone call to email and back again on his smartphone without cutting the caller off – something neither Whinger has ever mastered.

Debbie Kurup (who incidentally stood in for an indisposed Patina Miller at the Whingers’ preview viewing of Sister Act – is this a trend with American performers?) is excellent as Rachel’s more grounded sister Nicki. By the way, if you see this, [SEMI-SPOILER] please put us out of our misery and explain how Nicki wrote back to the assassin? Had he put his address on the back of the envelope in case of delivery problems?

The show starts with a bang (literally) and there are many others to ensure you don’t actually nod off over your Maltesers although an early appearance of Phil’s theatrical bête noire the park bench didn’t help to bring him onside.

The low point was the appearance of a completely redundant camp queen flouncing backstage at the climactic Academy Awards sequence which really got the Whinger’s dander up, even though a large portion of the audience found it hilarious. One must only hope that in this curiously humour-free show they were simply desperate for an easy laugh and willing to clutch at anything.

One is called upon to make one’s own amusement from time to time (mostly during the songs). Andrew set himself the task of proof-reading the giant Academy Award in the background which was made up of words such as “director”, “thank” and “grow” and was rewarded by spotting the word “priviledge”.

There are still another couple of weeks of previews to go so that can be fixed. And hopefully director Thea Sharrock will knock some of the more awkwardly delivered scenes into something less stilted and perhaps some of the scenes will end less abruptly than they do. The violent dramatic climax can almost pass unnoticed if you don’t look in the right place (Andrew missed it).

Tim Hately’s sets slide and close like camera shutters rather elegantly even if the video projections occasionally make you wonder why they didn’t just remake the film after all. There are some curious costumes – watch out for Rachel’s wonky-Bugs-Bunny-ears hat early on in the show (the scene in which the dancers sport a daring combination of MC Hammer trousers and Louis XVI wigs). She also gets to wear a remarkable yellow puffball skirt (which looks a bit like an ineptly applied lemon flavoured ribbed condom) for the tacked-on post-curtain call performance of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” which – as well as getting those not already ovating up on their feet – at least gives an underused Ray Shell a brief moment to sing.

The BodyGuard will appeal to those who loved Dirty Dancing, Mamma Mia et al but how the Whingers admired the two ladies in the centre of the second row who resolutely refused to stand and shake their booties (the Whingers were forced to stand in order to see, but didn’t shake their booties which just sagged as per).

A curate’s egg. On one hand there’s an expensive slickness about the production while other bits of it are messier than Whitney’s sink. And we all know what that led to.

The Whingers’ The BodyGuard tickets were generously provided by Cheap Theatre Tickets.


* Aladdin, since you ask.


15 Responses to “Review – The Bodyguard, Adelphi Theatre”

  1. Anita Butler Says:

    I’m wondering when it became acceptable to post reviews of previews? It doesn’t seem fair on the performers, but perhaps I’m just old fashioned.

  2. William Says:

    I’m wondering when it became acceptable for producers to stop offering reduced priced previews, Anita? That’s your answer I’m afraid.

    *in fairness, The BodyGuard does have reduced price previews; £67.50 down to £57.50, £55 to £45 and £45 to £37. But that’s hardly significantly reduced enough to warrant unpublished coverage of a month-long preview period, is it?

  3. James Says:

    About the same time it became fair game to charge £57.50 for a preview ticket!

  4. James Says:

    Great minds William, great minds…

  5. Anita Butler Says:

    Hi William and James, and thanks for replying. I didn’t know there were no longer reduced prices for previews (there should be) so I retract my earlier comment!

  6. Sal Says:

    Is anita actually a butler? Perhaps one of those in royal service who hold the genitalia of British nobility while they evacuate?

  7. Glen Morranjie Says:

    I saw a preview on Friday 30 December. It is worth queueing early for the £25 dayseats, as I got one center of front row stalls, in front of the mini catwalk. I was surrounded by teenage girls and gay man – one of my fellow queue-ers had seen the show already during the London previews, so was returning! A good show, cleverly staged, with an attractive set and a few scary moments. The female lead is fantastic. Only niggle on the way home was around a few plot questions unanswered – the musical plot is simpler than the film and doesn’t have the twists. Also if you can’t see the dress circle boxes at a critical moment in the second half you may be left a bit baffled.

  8. russell thomas Says:

    Don’t Go Unless heather is playing as rachel marron ! Major Dissapointment. If Your A Heather Fan They stuck in an understudy’s understudy from the musical esemble . Costumes didn’t fit ,but above all the awful! vocal scraeming almost unbearable and totaly out of tune !!!,Janet Kumar was her name not even listed as an undertsudy never heard of her ever. check an make shore heather is on !!! i was told now its been previewed for first few weeks she only does a few shows and one weekend show ! dissapointing ! false advertising in a way its like there filling seats and giving customers false expectations !!!

  9. keith emmett Says:

    i’m a really big heather fan . Filling seat’s under false pretences … then boom the awful mess that is janet kumar. i think if ur not a regular theatre goer and you don’t follow the actors and actresses you can be easily fooled . joe blogs public are easily pleased . but this show is pulling in people under heathers name . the enchanting video trailer of her hitting all them high Octive signature notes. then u get an understudy of understudy esemble with not replacement notice in advance . janet kumar acted more like tina turner – voice not suited or in tune !!! costuming needs a rethink too. think the’ve thrown set and costume’s together. were in 2013 they should have an automated txt service saying who is performing etc on evening by certain time . i took friends who were visiting from italy. i know she was poorly but she was scheduled 12 days off in month of january or more according to the website and only has evening shows to perform. she had flew 2 weeks running up to christmas one hell of a cold to last all way up to 11th january i believe. her last performances if she even does half of them is apparently august 10th 2013 before the show comes to and end as i think its been extended. Oh well no stamina of Julie andrews. A real star goes the distance !!! back in the day 12 shows a week ! don’t make them like they did back then !!! some conspiracy ….

  10. Luke Says:

    We saw Heather and she was not great. Poor breath control (one of Whitney’s big pluses in her prime) and stayed shy of the money notes. It’s possible we saw her when her voice was affected by illness. Who knows? But it really did make a shoddy West End show that much shoddier.

  11. just4time Says:

    i have traveled twice from northampton to see the show the first time i had no luck, instead i we git a grace jones of an understudy grunt, grunt, grunt .

    i checked all the necessary dates etc.

    i found out through the facebook page from fans that she does not do matinee shows (only evening) and has now 3 understudy’s none of which have rave reviews .

    This in itself should be stated on the website ???

    what amount of evening shows, she is actually doing ill never know .

    i booked once again for me and a friend to go and see her checking the website dates that she was not scheduled and picking and evening show. Hopefully we would have luck after all my investigating . which as a fan this should all be listed on the official wesbite grrhhhhhh.

    Heather Headley is expected to appear at all evening performances excluding Sat 16 – Sat 23 March

    and isn’t for Mon 13 – Wed 15 May, Mon 17 – Thu 20 June, Mon 15 – Wed 17 Jul …….

    so i booked monday 25th march . after checking her twitter she had been tweeting about her holiday that she was enjoying etc. i thought great she will be all fresh and ready to go as she will return sunday 24th from holiday a day before for rest ? all ready for evening show monday 25th .

    NOOOOO she returned on the same day she was scheduled to perform her evening show. then tweeted quote

    “Amazing time home, Vacation over

    ‘back in London

    My voice is still on break & didn’t fly in w/ me though…but sent a man as her understudy;)”

    great sence of humour ? not impressed at all . who comes back the day of a performance with jet lag ?

    we was already in london train fare, having dinner out, taxi’s wasted . money down the pan again.

    she picks up the flu mighty quick . maybe she should be introduced to a flu jab ? she’s giving london broadway a bad name ! and doesnt deserve to be in this show anymore, as it has been plugged with her name to fill seats . if she only performs 4 nights a week .

    she hasn’t earned this role and it doesn’t deserve the

    ‘Best new musical award’ .

    gracefully step down i say .

    one women on twitter had tweeted traveled all the way from northern ireland to see you and only found out through twitter you wasn’t performing tonight.

    the normal viewing public understand and accept understudy’s when your a fan it puts a sour taste in your mouth and just annoy’s you .

    when you complain all you get given is a piece of paper to contact the head office as the manager has no gut’s or authority to refund or comment.

    “whitney would be turning in her grave”

    not going for a third time ……

  12. Mark Says:

    Heather Headley doing a Martine McCutcheon and destroying her West End musical career before it’s started.

  13. Lynn Says:

    How long is the show

  14. greg Says:

    I was bored – the film plot isn’t enough to carry a live show

    I couldn’t hear the lyrics and the acting was weak

    the whole thing was weak and I left completely flat and bored

    there were a lot of empty seats too

    does anyone know if the show is in trouble?

  15. Pauline Sharp Says:

    Went to see show 26th July 2014 with Alexandra Bourke absolutely fantastic could go again tomorrow brilliant!!!!

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