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Review: The Bodyguard Musical, Newcastle Theatre Royal

Alexandra Burke takes on Whitney's back catalogue and comes out smiling as the smash hit West End show arrives on Tyneside

****
Alexandra Burke puts in a blistering turn in The Bodyguard
Alexandra Burke puts in a blistering turn in The Bodyguard

There's a scene in The Bodyguard Musical involving some excitable girls singing their hearts out - karaoke style - to a Whitney Houston classic.

I’m not going to lie, this was not a kick in the bottom away from the last three mornings in our kitchen since I found out I’d been successful in nabbing the press tickets for the stage adaptation of the wildly - and globally - popular 1992 film starring the aforementioned singing legend and Kevin Costner.

Back when the film was released, I’m happy to admit a 16-year-old me stood in line at the cinema box office upwards of six times to see the story of an under-threat international superstar who falls for the fella charged with protecting her.

Granted, The Bodyguard feature film would not appear anywhere near my top 100 films when it comes to storyline, acting prowess or directorial flare.

Throw in soundtrack and teenage nostalgia into the criteria mix though, and it would make an accelerated ascent to settle somewhere in between Grease and Top Gun, with tracks such as Run To You, I Have Nothing, Queen of the Night and (of course) I Will Always Love You immediately being filed away under ‘total smashers’.

They wouldn’t have been enough to sustain a stage show though; but no-one had to tell that to the producers of the musical - including Wallsend-born Michael Harrison, who have enjoyed a hit West End run and have just kicked off a mammoth UK tour.

They obviously realised early on that cracking as the soundtrack was, the show would secure a much wider and stronger appeal if its score was beefed up by the classic-ridden back catalogue of the film’s first lady.

Alexandra Burke plays Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard
Alexandra Burke plays Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard

And so as well as the best of The Bodyguard soundtrack, the audience also get the cream of Whitney’s greatest hits to boot - all delivered flawlessly by 2008 X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, who plays Rachel Marron - the platinum-plated singer with Oscar ambitions, who finds herself in danger thanks to a crazed - but tooled up - stalker and subsequently reliant on a former CIA agent - played suitably stand-offishly by Stuart Reid - who has been hired to protect her.

A jealous sister, a 10-year-old son, a team of staff and a sprinkling of comedy are also in the mix, but make no mistake, this is the Rachel Marron show, which translates to a lot of responsibility for the production’s top girl, right from the blistering Queen of the Night opener - which may have benefitted from a piped-in bassline, but was in the main four or five minutes infused with WOW.

One Moment in Time, I’m Every Woman, So Emotional, All The Man That I Need, The Greatest Love of All and How Will I Know are among the tracks on the ensuing setlist - woven neatly into the simplified storyline, which also finds time to give Rachel’s sister, Nicki Marron (Melissa James) the chance to make her vocal mark during a series of spotlight slivers, which include Saving All My Love for You and a Run To You duet.

In short, this is an absolute belter of a show for anyone who loved the film or counts themselves as a fan of Whitney Houston.

It’s slickly and classily produced and the on-stage performances live up to the soundtrack they are showcasing.

The Bodyguard's sunshine-soaked finale sends everyone home wanting to dance with somebody
The Bodyguard's sunshine-soaked finale sends everyone home wanting to dance with somebody

One of the final scenes sees Rachel performing in the hope of bagging an Oscar. I’d have no problem in Alexandra Burke taking home a musical theatre equivalent, but from the smile on her face which follows the sunshine-dipped encore, I reckon getting to sing those songs to a cheering crowd night after night is more than enough for her.

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