Review: The Bodyguard the Musical at The Lyceum, Sheffield
‘Please refrain from singing along’, the audience for The Bodyguard the Musical is told – reference to the mini-riot six months ago in Manchester when theatregoers had to be ejected for screeching over the cast and brawling during the I Will Always Love You finale. Seemingly we’re a more civilised bunch this side of the Pennines. Aside from some light humming there were no such disruptions in Sheffield. No police riot vans or anything.
The story, based on the 1992 movie starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, follows buttoned-up bodyguard Frank Farmer, hired to protect megawatt pop star Rachel Marron from a seriously creepy stalker with an evil glint in his eye and an equally evil carving knife glinting in his hand.
For an ex Secret Service agent being paid $7,000 a month and known in the industry as ‘the best’, Farmer’s security skills seem a little, shall we say, sloppy.
He is too busy snogging his mark and swigging beer to notice they’re being papped by fans with 90s issue smartphones, in photos that then go viral on the internet. He’s nowhere to be seen for the first few minutes that Rachel is mobbed on stage by yet more fans during a set.
Then for safety he takes Rachel, her young son and sister to his family’s cabin hideaway – where at night he fails to bother even locking the door made of nothing more robust than two panels of fly mesh.
No matter. What the show lacks in plausibility it makes up for in drama and energy – there are gunshots and lasers beams, hot flames and dry ice, slow-mo sequences and lightning-fast set changes, glittering costumes, a soaring pedestal and big screens showing scenes like a film. It’s a theatrical show, a movie and a pop concert all rolled into one, and for anyone who grew up belting Whitney’s power ballads into their hairbrush it’s an irresistible trip back in time.
Emmerdale and Hollyoaks actor Ayden Callaghan plays the part of Farmer, and Emily Williams the Whitney role of Rachel. She’s pretty much unknown here in the UK but is a multi-platinum-selling singer Down Under, where she was runner-up of the 2005 series of Australian Idol.
Now as any fan of a TV talent show knows, you don’t take on a Whitney song lightly – not unless you want to be shot down with the scathing critique ‘the song was just too big for you’. But 39-year-old Williams need have no such worries. She takes on, and triumphs over, every classic in the Whitney Houston catalogue.
All the top tracks from the film are there, plus even more Whitney weaved in to bolster the score – I Have Nothing, Greatest Love of All, I’m Every Woman, Saving All My Love for You, All At Once, Run To You, One Moment in Time, and a singalong I Wanna Dance With Somebody encore.
Williams – and Emily-Mae Walker as her sister Nicki – is sensational in all of them, just the right mix of cold-hearted diva and vulnerable warmth, a homage to Whitney while, as we say on the talent shows, also making the songs her own.
And though in parts the dialogue may be clunky, some of the big screen filmed sequences cheesy, it doesn’t overly matter.
The songs – as well as little Ryo Appadu making his professional debut as Rachel’s adorable son Fletcher – are the real stars of the show, and Williams is the perfect power singer needed to deliver them.
- The Bodyguard the Musical is at The Lyceum, Sheffield, until Saturday, October 14