Last night, I was at the opening night for the Manchester leg of The Bodyguard – The Musical‘s current UK tour.
As happened last time that I was at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, curtain up was again delayed by 15 minutes. I’m not sure whether it was actually Company side or Front of House, but again it was a full house and the FOH team still seemed to struggle to get people in their seats in time.
As an aside to the lady on the front row of the dress circle all of us in the stalls, rows D and E, thought you dangling your bare feet over the front of the apron was absolutely disgusting behaviour. Please go and re-evaluate your life choices. Your behaviour genuinely horrified people.
One unintentionally insensitive moment of the night was that the lady in front of me nipped up to go to the toilet – she’d just got to the huge on stage speakers when the lights dropped and a massive gun shot boomed out from the speakers next to her. She absolutely jumped out of her skin – she found it funny when she got back to her seat, but on reflection, and given the recent attacks in Paris, I find it incredulous that there weren’t even any warnings pre-show. I get that it’s a dramatic start, but when you’re so far behind schedule that people have started to switch off, this is even more impacting. Do it, but warn people!
Now, on to the actual show which, for me, was a musical of two halves, with the second half definitely feeling the stronger.
Alexandra Burke of course owns the role of Rachel, and I think that it was a genuine treat to see her belt out such classics in ‘normal’ clothes like you’d wear around the house as it only emphasised how ‘easy’ she makes singing like she does appear.
Also to giver credit, she didn’t “do a Whitney” she stayed true to herself and “did an Alexandra” – her endearing personality absolutely shone through and at the curtain call, Manchester showed their love for her in abundance!
Stuart Reid, appearing as Frank Farmer, was a great addition and a fantastic actor. I appreciate that his character doesn’t sing, but I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t even do so during the obligatory “audience-dance” bit at the end.
For me, the real star of the night was the vocally -stunning Melissa James in the role of Nicki, the sister of Rachel. An excellent stage presence and absolutely stopped this from becoming the ‘Alexandra Burke Show’. I look forward to seeing where her career takes her in years to come.
It took me quite a while to get comfortable with the sound during last night’s performance. The high notes actually hurt my ears and I was actually sat there in the audience dreading the next one. Hopefully this was just due to it being a ‘first night in a new venue’.
Stage Management did a magnificent job and I also have to shout out the band for recreating some wonderful songs. Karen Bruce‘s choreography was absolutely on point and wasn’t anywhere near as overblown as it could have been. I think having someone experienced in ‘big gigs’ like Alexandra performing, it helped, but it looked very natural and ‘real’.
Visually, the stage was magnificent – perhaps the best touring set that I have seen in YEARS. Everything appeared fluid and used to great effect. Full credit to Tim Hatley and his team for this.
As with the film, I think that this musical should come with a 12 rating on it – the presentation of The Stalker (played by Mike Denman) was genuinely terrifying and creepy. One bit in particular did seem to cross the comfort barrier a bit (the scene with the dress) but that’s character/story, all-in-all, it was a very disturbing and unsettling performance from him.
By the end of the performance I have no shame in saying that I was actually in tears. It’s a huge pity they couldn’t recreate the iconic plane scene but it still set me off anyway.
If you can tolerate the odd song that wasn’t in the original film (‘Million Dollar Bill‘ anyone?), the lack of any kind of acknowledgement to either Whitney or Kevin , and you want more than just an Alexandra Burke concert, then this is definitely a show for you.
It’s probably one of the strongest film adaptions that I’ve seen and I’d put it on par with Ghost The Musical, which I similarly enjoyed.
The BodyGuard – The Musical is at the Manchester Palace through to 9th January 2016, before continuing to tour the UK. For more ticketing info, please see the tour’s website.
The show is 2hrs 25 mins in duration, including interval.
Finally, for anyone bothered about this, I’ve included the following from the tour’s official website, which, in fairness applies to every musical out there!
ALEXANDRA BURKE DOES NOT APPEAR AT ALL PERFORMANCES
Alexandra Burke is NOT scheduled to perform at any midweek or Saturday matinees including any revised matinee performances. Additionally she is not scheduled to perform on 26 DECEMBER 2015 (Manchester). The role of Rachel Marron will be played by Zoe Birkett at these performances.
In 2016 Alexandra Burke is not scheduled to perform between 16 – 27 FEBRUARY 2016 (Canterbury)
and 1 – 12 MARCH 2015 (Sunderland) – casting to be confirmed.
The producers of The Bodyguard cannot guarantee the appearance of any particular artist, which is always subject to illness and holidays.