Considering the fact that the film's soundtrack is the fourth-best-selling album of all time, “The Bodyguard” as a staged musical is a production that was always destined for success. As a show that (really) rides on its music, it delivers in spades. Those familiar with the film probably know what they are in for, and as long as as they're in it for the nostalgia and the feel-good Whitney hits, they probably won't be disappointed.
Paulini as Rachel Marron is the star of the show, and if you missed her on Australian Idol in 2003, she’s back and you won't want to miss her now. She is nothing short of sensational in this production. Her whole performance is en pointe, dangerously brilliant, and she is a dead set "triple threat" (a term which, by the way, I hate to use but which throbs in my mind when I think about Paulini in this role). In keeping with this movie-to-musical ‘genre’, the show effectively becomes a Paulini concert, and thankfully at no point do we feel robbed of Whitney Houston’s iconic presence. The Australian casting is completely satisfying.
Kip Gamblin is the bodyguard, Frank Farmer. It’s a tough role: forcefully distant and one-dimensional, but with a passionate cause. Gamblin is believable and likeable.
Prinnie Stevens as Nicki Marron gives Paulini a run for her money at times throughout the show: a stunning presence, with the vocals to match. The love-trio carry the show, but all three are almost guaranteed to be out-shun by young Fletcher when he walks on stage. The ten-year-old part is alternated between four young actors, and I was lucky enough to see Tyrese Medina's performance. Medina’s energy warms the heart, and was honestly a highlight. The dance-heavy ensemble give the show an added ‘oomph’.
If you don’t enjoy The Bodyguard, I’d say it’s not the talent you’re responding to, but the production itself. It’s excessive, and that’s an understatement. The show is rich in its use of projections, presumably to capture the essence of the film on which the show is based. However, they are often poorly utilised and come across as forced. It’s as if they are there to fill in time, or maybe to divert our attention from stagnant direction in the scene taking place. Cringe-worthy, all the same. Projections aside, there are some technical choices that are definitely bold (and dangerously so!) but, in my opinion, effective. These are the smoke, elaborate sets, the platforms and, mostly, the lighting design. Considering the sum total of these elements, The Bodyguard could never be accused of being cheap. It’s a big-budget show and a visual spectacle.
The writing is nothing life-changing, which is what happens when there's no message to take home. The Bodyguard is a romantic thriller, adopting a pretty formulaic plot-line. The stage show does not attempt to be any kind of departure from the 1992 film, which is a shame. Every song ends up a soliloquy: a pause in the story so that we might enjoy whatever crowd pleasing number we’re up to. There are very few attempts at incorporating the songs into the story, which is probably an opportunity missed (I’m sure all of the central characters would have benefitted from a little fleshing out through this medium). What’s more, there’s a lot in the story that demands the audience to fill in the blanks. For example, the motive of the stalker, and both Nicki and Rachel’s incredibly sudden infatuation with Frank (not to mention an incredibly rushed and poorly explained ending). I suppose the film was never so successful for its story. It’s the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack that took the world by storm. This show is really a vehicle for showcasing the much loved music, and it doesn’t need to pretend to be anything else.
Finally, The Bodyguard is designed in such a way that the audience has to be on their feet at the end of the show. A wise choice, because who doesn't love the absolute banger “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”? You’re sure to walk out grinning.
Now Showing at The Sydney Lyric Theatre!
Ticket details here.