Opening with a BANG! Bodyguard The Musical

Bromley Buzz was invited to attend the opening night of the much-acclaimed The Bodyguard The Musical at the Churchill Theatre, and all we can say is, opening night opened with a BANG!

The show follows closely the storyline delivered in Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 movie based on the book by Alexander Dinelaris and starring the late, great Whitney Houston. Rachel Marron, 6-time Emmy winner is receiving threatening hate mail from an unknown stalker and her Manager hires a bodyguard, ex-Secret Service agent, Frank Farmer, to protect her and her young son. The bodyguard, reluctant to get involved with anyone from the show businesses world, is swayed by the star’s young son, takes on the role and rolls out dramatic changes to better protect Marron. Initially difficult and resentful of the intrusion which she deems unnecessary, an incident in a nightclub where she is performing changes Rachel’s mind. The two grow closer and share a passionate night together, much to the dismay and jealousy of Rachel’s sister, Nicki. Realising his involvement with Rachel compromises his ability to protect Rachel, Frank breaks off the affair much to Rachel’s hurt and anger.

Following a home intrusion, Frank whisks Rachel, her entourage, and her son away to his remote log cabin where the want-to-be assassin finds them again. Tragedy ensues for Rachel, but she pulls herself together to turn up for the Academy Awards, sings the song she and Nicki wrote together, and collects her Oscar – the ideal moment for the assassin to pounce again! Frank foils the assassin’s attempt and he and Rachel share a heart-breaking scene before he leaves to take up a new assignment.

The theatre production delivers all the elements you could hope for. All the glamour, the excitement, the build-up of tensions both between Rachel and Frank’s character and with the darkly threatening assassin, the familiar and amazing soundtrack and the heart pounding finale and the heart-breaking conclusion – it’s all right there on stage for you to immerse yourself in and enjoy.

Whitney Houston is a tough act to follow, and she very much made the role of Rachel Marron her own. Melody Thornton’s vocals did her justice, and it was a nice nod to the late star to include some of her best loved non-Bodyguard-related hits within the storyline.

Ayden Callaghan turns in a stellar performance as the troubled professional in the titular role. Emily-Mae’s portrayal of the jealous and down-trodden sister Nicki was spot-on and provided a strong vocal for the part. James Groom was suitably hateable as the Rachel’s selfish and smarmy manager and provided some decent comic moments throughout.

Fletcher, Rachel’s son, has four actors subscribed to the role – it’s too much of a late night and a punishing schedule for one young actor to play every show! On opening night, Iesa Miller was on a stage and did a great job throughout – acting, singing, and dancing his way through the performance with a confidence and ability that foreshadow the star he’s sure to be!

The costumes were sparkly and glamourous, the set switched nicely between various scenes from dance studio to Rachel’s bedroom (do enjoy the brief glimpse of Ayden with his shirt off!) to the nightclub scene and to Frank’s log cabin, and finally to the Oscars. An imaginative use of lighting and projections lent an extra dimension to the storyline that would otherwise have been less impactive on stage than in the movie. The dancers provided strong back up to Rachel’s performances and the orchestra mastered the delivery of the music much to everyone’s resounding delight.

Due to the constraints of the environment, certain elements were omitted – there’s no scene of the chauffeur being given getaway driver lessons – and a couple of other parts of the storyline have been condensed or simplified to keep the running time to around two hours and twenty-five minutes. Fans of the movie will be delighted with the results – you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck with this one!

The Bodyguard The Musical is showing at The Churchill Theatre Bromley from Monday 15th to Saturday 20th of May. Tickets from £32, here.

Sarah Marsh-Collings & Zeenat Noorani, 17 May 2023

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