London’s Dominion Theatre is a great barn of a venue that can suck the energy out of a show due to its sheer size. The anthemic songs of Queen did the job when We Will Rock You enjoyed a 12-year run there, but the usually rousing Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatley fell, well, decidedly flat on a recent visit.
Beverley Knight, however, suffers no problems in reaching those at the back of the 2000-plus auditorium as she returns to the role in which she made her musical theatre debut in 2012. She gives enough welly to the power ballads, and invests the dance tracks with enough electric energy, to practically lift the roof off.
If this were a review of Beverley Knight’s performance, it would be five big stars. But the show stumbles from the big production numbers – on which no expense has been spared – to stilted dramatic scenes with embarrassingly hokey dialogue.
In a musical based on the 1992 movie that starred Whitney Houston, Knight is the singing superstar who is the target of a stalker, Rachel Marron. Her entourage turn to a former secret service agent, Frank Farmer, to act as her protector. At first, she resents her new bodyguard calling all the shots, but gradually their relationship thaws and – well, no prizes for guessing where they end up.
Beverley Knight as Rachel Marron; photos by Alessandro Pinna
Ben Richards does a decent job as the uptight Farmer (aka Kevin Costner’s role) and strikes a nice balance between the square-jawed efficiency that his job requires and tenderer moments with Rachel’s young son. Away from the songs, he is responsible for one of the show’s few moments of charm when Farmer and an incognito Rachel visit a karaoke bar; Richards – who in reality has musical theatre credentials – gets deserved laughs as he sings hopelessly out of tune. Knight also shows decent acting chops and a deft touch for comedy.
Thea Sharrock directs it like a big-budget 80s pop video complete with flames, dry ice and lasers. It’s not short on spectacle and some moments reached such camp heights they actually raised titters from the audience. A special mention must go to the stunning Rachel John who plays Marron’s sister Nicki and more than rises to the occasion on songs such as Run to You – a duet with Knight.
In the end, though, it’s all about Knight’s stunning voice where she (sacrilege alert!) often out-Whitneys Whitney. And that alone should guarantee that The Bodyguard will pack them in as it did the first time round.
The Bodyguard runs until 7 January 2017, although Beverley Knight is not scheduled to appear at certain performances
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news