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Alexandra Burke still queen of the night as The Bodyguard comes to Birmingham - review with pictures

By Alison Norton | Birmingham | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

Pop princess Alexandra Burke was once again outstanding in the stage musical adaptation of the Oscar-nominated film The Bodyguard in Birmingham.

The Bodyguard at The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Following in the footsteps of music legend Whitney Houston and movie heartthrob Kevin Costner cannot be easy, but the casting of this latest touring version ensures The Bodyguard remains the perfect modern-day thriller, with more than a hint of sensual seduction.

When a troubled ex-Secret Service Agent Frank Farmer is hired to protect superstar singing sensation Rachel Marron who is being stalked by an over-zealous fan, it appears to be a reasonably undemanding job. He is determined to stay focused and detached, but it isn’t long before the chemistry between Frank and Rachel reaches boiling point, both professionally and romantically.

Thea Sharrock’s direction creates the contrasting sinister mood of the piece and the tenderness of the couple's relationship perfectly. Karen Bruce’s edgy, innovative choreography is wonderfully executed by an exceptional ensemble and simply takes your breath away, while the outstanding orchestra, directed by Michael Riley, perfectly brings the Whitney sound to life, taking us back in time to the 80s and 90s.

In the past, I may have doubted casting a pop diva in preference to a musical theatre star in the role of Rachel, as although both styles of singing require equal talent, in terms of staying power on a long tour, musical theatre singers will win every time.

However, Burke has developed into so much more than a pop singer, having taken on more and more musical theatre roles as her career has progressed, learning from the best as she goes.

The Bodyguard at The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

As you would expect, she offered a stunning vocal performance throughout, belting out favourite after favourite including Queen Of The Night, How Will I Know?, Greatest Love Of All, One Moment In Time, So Emotional, Million Dollar Bill and I Have Nothing.

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The list is endless, but she also displayed much-improved acting ability since the first time I saw her play this emotional role.

Naturally she saved the very best until last and brought the house down with a spine-tingling, powerful performance of I Will Always Love You, which invoked a sense of drama and emotion throughout the whole theatre.

The Bodyguard at The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Ben Lewis left the ladies weak at the knees as the hard-hitting hero Frank, with a seasoned, extremely natural performance, while youngster Rio Gardner deserves a very special mention as Rachel’s son, Fletcher, as he gave a mature portrayal of the adult material within the show, but still retained a childlike innocence. Oh, and his dancing skills are off the scale.

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Emmy Willow’s velvet smooth voice in the role of Rachel’s sister, Nicki, more than matched Miss Burke’s vocal performance, particularly in their duet, the haunting ballad Run To You - which for me was the highlight of the evening - and her solo Saving All My Love, which she delivered with pure emotion.

No spoilers here - I am sure you have seen the movie anyway - but Phil Atkinson as Rachel’s stalker was the ultimate bad boy. He was menacing and intimidating yet strangely attractive too, so much so that he remained in my mind whilst walking back through the dark city streets to the train station.

The Bodyguard at The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

With a well-loved storyline, exceptional score, striking staging, outstanding lighting effects, glittering, glamorous costumes and a finale which had the whole theatre on its feet, concert-style, The Bodyguard is the perfect solution for those cynics who would normally avoid musical theatre like the plague, converting them into all-singing, all-dancing fans.

And all in all, it looks as if Alexandra is still the Queen Of The Night.

Runs until February 1. Visit ATGTickets or call 0844 871 3011 for tickets.

Alison Norton

By Alison Norton
@AlisonNorton

Theatre critic and unofficial 'am dram queen' for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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