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jaydarcy
5th April 2023

Review: The Bodyguard

The Bodyguard has returned to the Palace Theatre, with Pussycat Doll Melody Thornton proving herself to be a super skilled vocalist
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Review: The Bodyguard
Melody Thornton and the companyPhoto: Paul Coltas

Whilst I’ve seen a few shows more than once, I’ve never reviewed the same show twice – until now. I first reviewed The Bodyguard during its second UK tour, which was led by Alexandra Burke, who had starred in the first UK tour and then replaced Beverley Knight MBE in the West End revival. Alongside Sister Act, which both Knight and Burke will be returning to next year, it is one of her defining roles.

As much as I enjoyed The Bodyguard, I had not been too fussed about seeing it again – that is, until they announced the casting. There’s a new star in town, people: Pussycat Doll Melody Thornton is Rachel Marron!

Stepping into a role originated by Whitney Houston (who is literally known as “The Voice”) is no easy feat. People rarely even cover Whitney songs – and for good reason: most cannot do them justice.

Whilst the actresses who have taken on this role are all phenomenal vocalists, Whitney was in another league, so many actresses attempt to make the songs their own. Burke’s voice is noticeably deeper than Houston’s was, which allowed her to alter the iconic songs with ease. Thornton, meanwhile, is quite high-pitched, and who can forget her signature shrieks (especially in ‘Buttons’)? So she had to work extra hard to make the songs her own – and, for the most part, she succeeded.

I saw Thornton sing ‘I Will Always Love You’ at Big Night of Musicals, and whilst I already knew she could sang, she absolutely blew me away. So, I was a little disappointed by her renditions of some of the earlier songs in The Bodyguard. I felt like she was holding back, saving herself for the big ballads later on, but I also wonder if ballads suit her voice better than pop songs. That said, her rendition of ‘I’m Every Woman’ was fabulous, but it was the ballads (‘I Have Nothing’, ‘I Will Always Love You’, etc.) that really allowed her to shine.

It’s a dang shame Thornton was hardly ever allowed to sing in The Pussycat Dolls.

Some of the acting was a little questionable but that could be down to the script, with its occasional clunky writing. Some of the non-musical scenes early on felt a little awkward.

Ayden Callaghan (Emmerdale, Hollyoaks) is fantastic as the titular bodyguard. The karaoke scene, in which he finally lets down his guard, is one of the best scenes in the show. It’s also a nice touch including the original, country, Dolly Parton version of ‘I Will Always Love You’.

Emily-Mae is lovely to watch as Rachel’s supportive but frustrated sister, Nicki, and her voice rivals Thornton’s. I particularly enjoyed her rendition of ‘Saving All My Love for You’, and I loved the scenes in which Rachel and Nicki sang two halves of the same song, which perfectly captured their love triangle.

The set is stunning, especially Rachel’s home, which is covered in white draping. The costumes, some of which are replicas of those worn by Houston in the movie, are gorgeous.

The opening number is one of the best you’ll ever see in musical theatre. It begins with a big bang that’ll make you jump out of your seat, followed by a short scene in which someone is shot (we can only see shadows on a curtain), before Rachel performs ‘Queen of the Night’ at a concert – complete with fire! It immediately draws you in and gets you ready for a night of nostalgia.

The big moment, ‘I Will always Love You’, does not disappoint. The first two thirds are performed in Rachel’s home, when Frank walks away, with the bridge and final chorus performed on a bare stage, with Thornton stood atop a white pillar in a glittering gown. I was in awe.

Whilst the story can be serious, stressful and saddening, the curtain call is fun, feel-good and fabulous, with the entire cast performing ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’, and the audience finally allowed to dance and singalong! (I have never seen “please do no singalong” signs before; they made me laugh).

The Bodyguard is flawed and cheesy, just like the movie – but if you love the movie, you’ll love the musical!

 

The Bodyguard runs at Palace Theatre Manchester until April 15 and tours the UK until December 30. Thornton and Callaghan are with the musical until its stint at Bristol Hippodrome (July 17 to 22), with further casting to be announced. Thornton is scheduled to appear at all evening performances only.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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