“BEVERLEY KNIGHT IN THE BODYGUARD”
Well, that’s what our only souvenir from the show, a flyer, claims (programmes are a whopping £8, which is more than a mug at a mere £7). But, long-sighted buyers beware, in ant-sized type on the back it states she’s “currently scheduled to appear at Tuesday to Friday evening performances and both performances on Saturday, subject to illness and holidays”.
We’ve been caught that way before. When we saw The Bodyguard in its first run at the Adelphi Theatre, headliner Heather Headley had better things to do and we saw her (albeit very good) stand in.
So second time lucky. Fortunately for us it wasn’t a Monday night or Wednesday matinee and Ms Knight wasn’t suffering croup or lying on a sun lounger with a pina colada somewhere but giving considerable wellie (welly?) on the Dominion stage.
Phil still hasn’t seen the 1992 Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner film on which this is based. There is a cheesily engaging plot which serves as a coat hanger to the songs and it has its moments, well, two of them, which have the audience jumping in their seats. But sometimes you feel Thea Sharrock‘s production just wants to rip through the clunky story to fit in all those numbers from the Whitney back catalogue.
Knight is Rachel Marron, superstar popster. Trouble is she’s got a stalker (Matthew Stathers). We should be so lucky. He’s rather dishy as it happens. Thing is, he’s prone to leaving little messages backstage in the form of collages of torn out out newspapers, walks around brandishing large knives (a big no-no in Phil’s kitchen) and nipping into Marron’s dressing room to filch her frocks to satisfy his olfactory senses back home. So the diva’s team employ bodyguard Frank Farmer (Ben Richards) to protect her. He may have a face more chiseled than Rushmore Mountain but his track record at protecting people turns out to be less than 100% successful. Will he save her from being gunned down at the Academy Awards or end up horizontal with her? Possibly both.
Mark Henderson‘s lighting will make your photoreceptor cells work overtime. Tim Hatley‘s sets operate with the smooth camera shutter theme as before, though like the rest of the production things sometimes look a little lost on the Dominion’s vast stage. We couldn’t tell if there was a giant statuette in the Oscars scene as our sightlines prevented us from seeing the back of the stage. Pity really as the original production had one with a wonderful misspelling on it which was spotted by an eagle-eyed Andrew, as previously
crowed about reported. We must assume sub-editors were sent in. Unfortunately they didn’t pay heed to us fully; Phil’s theatrical bête noire, the park bench still makes an appearance, but it turns up so early in the proceedings that Phil was able to relax and just concentrate on worrying about the stalker’s knives.
Rachel’s son Fletcher is performed (at least on the night we attended, there are 4 to choose from) by Jaden Oshenye with a confidence that should be annoying but we’d say he’s totally beguiling and adorable if that doesn’t get us put on a list.
Rachel’s sister, Nicki is played splendidly by Rachel John. She’s supposed to be the also-ran of the sisters, knocking out numbers in a crummy club while sis wows globally, but you wouldn’t know it from her vocal skills; she should be up there with Rachel. Sibling rivalry is compounded by both of them fancying the pants off the bodyguard. But will Farmer take a wife?
There’s a few laughs which we don’t remember from the po-faced original. Spoiler Alert. Phil sniggered like a school
girlboy during “All the Man That I Need” when Rachel sits by her post-coital bed and sings the lyric “I used to cry myself to sleep at night, But that was all before he came” which is topped by a line in the next scene by the (hopefully) unintentional “Frank comes everywhere” shortly after we’ve seen him sleeping off a (K)night of passion. Phil wasn’t the only one hooting this time; the rest of the audience spotted that one.
But the raison d’etre for seeing this is the extraordinary Ms Knight. Not only does she knock out the numbers spectacularly but has a winning stage presence that makes her character description “one of the biggest stars in the world” easy to believe. And unexpectedly she makes much more than a very decent fist of acting her part too. Phil was impressed. And all this when she’s competing with jets of smoke and eyebrow-singeing fire shooting out of the stage at various points, a series of glittery frocks and that park bench.
For once we didnt mind ovating at the end, clapping along to the Whitney mash-up at the curtain call and dancing along like our dads. Non of which would have happened if Andrew had been in attendance. Natch.