THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – 31 AUGUST 2019 & TOUR
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL
RUNNING TIME 2 HOURS 15 MINUTES – 1 interval
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 22 AUGUST 2019
The 1982 film ‘The Bodyguard’ starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner was a huge box office hit. A world-famous singer is stalked by a psychopathic fan and has a bodyguard assigned to her; their relationship moves from cold to hot and the story reaches its climax at the Oscars ceremony; the plot in a nutshell.
The film made the most of Houston’s singing voice and gave her a soundtrack of some of her songs – making the Dolly Parton number ‘I Will Always Love You’, a phenomenal hit. The musical version which added to the songs and with a re-jigged plotline, opened in London in 2012 and has successfully toured the world ever since.
The opening of the show is undeniably eye-catching – the bodyguard in action in silhouette – followed by a full-throttle pop concert with move moving lights than you can shake a stick at, flame-throwers and half naked male dancers – it’s…well….it’s pretty good. Thereafter the story begins to play out with intermittent songs and ‘performances’ from the star. This is, to all intents and purposes another jukebox musical – one of many, but this one is a little different. Although you could never say the plot is clever or smart, it is engaging and as a thriller, it makes it far more interesting than most of the genre.
Occasionally there is a feeling that the songs are getting a little in the way of the plot, but that’s the nature of the beast; this is a star vehicle and on the singing front, only one other voice really gets a look in; the main character’s sister.
Alexandra Burke came to prominence when she won ‘The X Factor’ in 2008 – a fact interestingly omitted from her biography in the hefty programme – and she took over the central role of Rachel Marron from Beverley Knight in the London production in 2014. Not a great actor, but she can get away with the performance with the script she is offered. Burke is no Houston, and occasionally I detected a struggle with some of the numbers, thankfully, the main song was delivered impeccably.
Simon Cotton too has a fairly two-dimensional character to portray as Frank Farmer, the bodyguard of the title. Not called upon to sing, he is macho when he needs to be and that is fine. The best acting comes from Micha Richardson as the ill-fated sister, Nicki; the script gives her far more depth than any other character and songs to boot. A mention too for the youngest member of the cast, Archie Smith who is a very talented young actor, singer and dancer, who stood out as Rachel’s son, Fletcher.
As the stalker, Phil Atkinson looms over the stage and in front of it and from the middle of the crowd – he is everywhere – he flex’s his pecs with an air of threat!
All the other performers do what is asked of them – no criticism for that.
Staging of this calibre – which includes projections and haze and lifts etc – is a bit of a treat. There is no holding back and the kitchen sink is almost thrown at the show. It is difficult to criticise the designs (set and costumes) of Tim Hatley who was lucky to have a big budget to work with – it was well used. The lighting design of Mark Henderson also ensures that the audience is virtually enveloped in the show and feel part of it. Under the direction of Michael Riley, the orchestra is loud, enthusiastic, tuneful and unobtrusive – perfect. Excellent work in the sound department too where the balance was spot-on.
As the end of the show arrives and the big number is delivered, it is difficult not to think this is very cheesy, but well done to them for going for it. I can also forgive the 5 minute extra song and dance number at the end which is rather well done – designed to get people on their feet, it succeeds.
‘The Bodyguard – The Musical’ could be written off as absolute tosh – the film received seven Golden Raspberry Award nominations – but if it is, it is engaging tosh and a whole heap better than many shows of this genre. I couldn’t help feeling that I was indulging in my own guilty pleasure – I really enjoyed it!
FRANK FARMER – SIMON COTTON
RACHEL MARRON – ALEXANDRA BURKE
BILL DEVANEY – PETER LANDI
TONY SCIBELLI – CRAIG BERRY
THE STALKER – PHIL ATKINSON
FLETCHER – ARCHIE SMITH
SY SPECTOR – GARY TURNER
NIKKI MARRON – MICHA RICHARDSON
RAY COURT – CHRIS EDGERLEY
ENSEMBLE – ROSIE CAVA-BEALE, MYLES CORK, KERRY CROZIER, SIA DAUDA, GUSTAV DIE, JAMES-LEE HARRIS, HOLLY LIBURD, JACK LOY, DANIL SHMIDT, JESSICA SIMMONS, YIOTA THEO, CALLUM CLACK, NATALIE JAYNE HALL, HELEN PARSONS, MICHAEL WADE PETERS
BOOK – ALEXANDER DINELARIS
MUSICAL ARRANGEMENTS AND ADDITIONAL MUSIC – MIKE DIXON, CHRIS EGAN
CHOREOGRAPHY – KAREN BRUCE
SET & COSTUME DESIGN – TIM HATLEY
ORIGINAL DIRECTION – THEA SHARROCK
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – MICHAEL RILEY
LIGHTING DESIGN – MARK HENDERSON
VIDEO DESIGN – DUNCAN MCLEAN
SOUND DESIGN – RICHARD BROOKER