By: Shari Archinoff
I’ve always loved the Academy Awards. Even as a kid I would watch them every year, from the red carpet pre-show to the very last thank you speech. When the nominations for this year’s Oscars came out, the category for Best Song prompted a conversation with a friend about the best movie songs of all time. We both agreed that, even though it wasn’t eligible for the Oscars, our favourite movie song was Whitney Houston's version of “I Will Always Love You” from The Bodyguard soundtrack, which we both loved. It got me thinking about how good that entire soundtrack is. I vividly remember listening to it – on cassette! – and dancing around to all the songs. Given that it’s still the best selling soundtrack of all time, clearly I’m not the only one who loved it. So of course when the trend of adapting popular movies into Broadway musicals proved to be successful, adapting The Bodyguard for the stage seemed like a no-brainer.
The story of The Bodyguard centers around the character of Rachel Marron, a six-time Grammy winner who has just received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Song and is determined to do whatever it takes to fulfill her childhood dream of winning. Unfortunately for her, a mysterious stalker is hell-bent on doing whatever it takes to stop her. When a sinister letter appears backstage during one of Rachel’s concerts, her management team hires expert bodyguard, Frank Farmer, to protect Rachel, her son Fletcher and her sister Nikki. While Rachel and Frank’s relationship starts out as contentious, they quickly grow on each other as romantic feelings begin to develop.
Before seeing the show, I have to admit I was a little skeptical that anyone other than Houston could fill the role of Rachel, but British soul singer Beverley Knight definitely rose to the occasion. With her powerful voice, she managed to match Houston riff for riff while bringing her own vocal style to the songs. She nearly brought down the house with her show-stopping version of “I Will Always Love You”.
While most of the plot stays true to the original film, one major change is that Rachel’s sister Nikki is also a singer. Although the character is clearly overshadowed by her more famous sister, actress Rachel John more than holds her own when she is on the stage. While she didn’t have the same amount of stage time, I would say her voice rivaled that of her co-star. Actor Stuart Reid portrays Frank Farmer, who brings with the same steadfastness we remember from Kevin Costner, but also adds some humour and vulnerability to the character.
The real star of the show, though, is the music. Of course there are musical numbers featuring songs from the original soundtrack, like the Oscar-nominated tracks “Run to You” and “I Have Nothing”, along with some of my old favourites like “I’m Every Woman” and “Queen of the Night”. It was a pleasant surprise to hear some other classic songs of Houston's like “How Will I Know” and “So Emotional”. As an encore, the cast came out to perform one of my all time favourite songs, “ I Wanna Dance With Somebody”. Not only did it have the entire audience on their feet in the theatre, but it carried out into the lobby as well. I’ve seen many, many musicals in my life but I’ve never experienced theatregoers singing in the bathroom after the show.
The Bodyguard has a fast paced plot jam-packed with music and enough sequined costumes to make even modern pop stars jealous. The creators of the show clearly stepped up to the challenge of taking a cinematic classic and finding a way to bring it to life on stage. This show will definitely have you on the edge of your seat – when you’re not dancing in it.
Photos by Paul Coltas.