JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE BODYGUARD at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 9.3.15.
4 stars ****
IS IT MUSIC THEATRE? Is it a giant rock gig? Or is it something else, a hyper-emotional 21st century celebration of the whole idea of celebrity? I don’t know – but there’s certainly something powerful happening at the King’s, Glasgow, this week; and with a bag-search at the door to prevent the mainly-female crowd from bringing in their own drink, and an audience so hyper-excited that they keep wrecking the show’s quieter moments with yelps of anticipation, it’s not quite like any other musical I’ve seen.
Essentially, The Bodyguard is a fairly faithful staging of the story of the film, which uses film-style presentation – large projected close-ups, filmed images and titles – to avoid the more difficult aspects of transforming film into stage show. Alexandra Burke, the 2008 X-Factor winner, turns in a glamorous, gorgeous, yet down-to-earth and witty performance as Rachel Marron, the soul-singing superstar who is threatened by a violent stalker, and turns to her bodyguard Frank Farmer for practical and emotional support; Stuart Reid is a shade wooden as Frank, and Meiissa James sings and acts beautifully as Rachel’s overshadowed sister, Nicki.
It’s the songs, though, that really tell the sensational and vaguely erotic story of The Bodyguard; and from the great anthem I Will Always Love You to the final walkdown version of I Wanna Dance With Somebody, they’re presented here with a level of sheer glitz and pzazz that fairly takes the breath away, with columns of fire rising from the stage, and Alexandra Burke living the 21st century dream, as she rises over the audience in a glittering midnight-blue dress, to sing her final high notes.
King’s, Glasgow, until 14 March; His Majesty’s, Aberdeen, 16-21 March, and Playhouse, Edinburgh, 29 September-10 October.