“I don’t really need to look very much further”
As The Bodyguard is soon to close in the West End with a UK tour scheduled for early next year, it seemed as good a choice as any for a Friday night out with the girls and a few bottles of wine. I saw the show when it first opened and recognised it exactly for what it is, uncomplicated blockbuster fun, and so I was happy to revisit. One of the sadder things about the continuation of the run though has been the move to star casting – I didn’t see Beverley Knight so I can’t comment on her performance but the current incumbent of the Rachel Marron role, immortalised by Whitney at the cinema, is X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke, a singer with no theatre experience.
Did it matter? It’s hard to tell in the end – she has the requisite booming voice to deliver the selections from Whitney’s back catalogue that are scattered through the show, although she really cannot resist the misguided inclination to throw in extra licks, riffs and wobbles into every single number, as if to prove a point that no-one is making. And her acting is neither here nor there, falling back on a lot of gesticulation to say what’s she saying and against a male lead part that asks nothing of Tristan Gemmill but to look craggy and an understudy on for sister Nicki (her singing voice strong but whose spoken accent was truly transatlantic, as Welsh as it was American), fitting right in.
Can one say you don’t go to a show like this for great acting though – the spectacle and the music and the cute kid and the video screens all add up to a nifty package, one which was lapped up by the Friday night audience. And it is hardly as if there’s any great dramatic surprise contained within that could snatch an Olivier (although we did have a couple of shrieking audience members at one point). I feel sadder that the producers haven’t been nurturing black British musical theatre actresses (even the alternate Joelle Moses is a singer by trade) and denying them the opportunity here (I feel lucky to have gotten to see Gloria Onitiri when I did).
Perhaps I’m overthinking it. I can’t deny I got highly overexcited when, from my front row and centre seat, I got to interact with Ms Burke during ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’ and I still have a feather from her dress – the wine may have had a little to do with this. But it is just an enjoyable experience in the end, if I believed in guilty pleasures then this would be one but I feel no guilt at all in saying we had a really fun night out and sometimes that is exactly what you want from your trip to the theatre.