When I first arrived in London, every time I went to watch a movie, the theater was noticeably empty. I went to various movie theaters and the lugubrious experience was usually the same. I was baffled. Over the phone, my mother remarked that in the land of Shakespeare, people were probably just more interested in watching plays and musicals.
Sure enough, the voice of wisdom illuminates reality once again. Although I am not a big fan of musicals, last weekend I went to watch “The Bodyguard” at the Adelphi theater, on the Strand, near Trafalgar Square and a short walk away from Charing Cross. Being an inveterate movie fan, what really piqued my interest was the fact that this musical was based on the 1992 homonymous movie, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. In the movie, a retired Secret Service agent is hired to protect a famous pop star from a deranged stalker and ends up falling in love with her. This was the blockbuster that propelled Whitney Houston to international stardom and whose soundtrack sold 45 million of copies world wide, becoming the best-selling soundtrack of all time.
In the musical, Beverly Knight plays the main role of pop star Rachel Marron and does an admirable job. She is responsible for the majority of the solo performances and has a beautiful, rich, powerful, stentorian voice. Knight comes as close to Whitney Houston’s vocal prowess as one can reasonably expect and was repeatedly praised by all present. Fans of the movie will be treated to all the popular songs, including the now legendary “I Will Always Love You”, which is rightly reserved for last.
Tristan Gemmill plays the role of the Secret Service agent Frank Farmer, feebly attempting to fill the shoes of Kevin Costner. Unlike Beverly Knight, he fails to impress. He does not sing or dance and lacks the charisma that Costner displayed so well on screen. Being the leading man, he just cannot sell the love story. There seems to be no real chemistry between the two leading characters, which in turn compromises one’s involvement in the plot. If anyone was miscast for the role, Gemmill was probably the one. He would have been much better suited for a musical based on Blade Runner, where acting like an android would not have been frowned upon.
Finally, Carole Stennett plays the role of Rachel Marron’s sister, proving to be a towering figure in the musical, rivaling Beverly Knight herself. She plays only two or three solos, but her performances were memorable no less, almost to the point of making one wonder why she wasn’t cast for the main role herself.
The dancing choreography is modern, but it is not the main focus of the show, serving only as an occasional backdrop to the music. This is just as well because at least two of the dancers were visibly overweight and moved without the grace that is expected from a professional. The excess weight they were carrying compromised their speed, making them somewhat slower than the other cast members, almost to the point of jeopardizing the entire choreography. For a production of this caliber, this is simply unacceptable. This being said, the transitions between sets were all done seamlessly and the progression of the story did not lose its pace, despite the short intermission half way through.
In the end, although I am not a big fan of musicals, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would gladly watch it a second time. Since photography and filming were prohibited, all I have to share is a picture of the billboard. Alas, I really wish that I could have been able to film Beverly Knight’s final rendition of “I Will Always Love You”. Oh, and this time around the theater was filled to capacity. I am beginning to understand why.