The Bodyguard musical brings Sunderland Empire audiences to their feet: Review of show packed with drama and dancing

From the opening gun shot to the closing Whitney medley finale, The Bodyguard is a musical packed with drama and dancing.
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Anyone who’s seen the 1992 film of the same name, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, will be familiar with the plot about sassy superstar Rachel Marron who has to rely on the protection of bodyguard Frank Farmer after she becomes the victim of a stalker.

Reprising her role as the leading lady is Alexandra Burke. There’s few singers who could take on a soundtrack of Whitney hits, but the X Factor winner does them brilliant justice with her great range and velvety tones. It certainly can’t be an easy task hitting those notes six times a week, but she makes it look effortless.

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Although the plot follows the film closely, the soundtrack has added Whitney for your buck which ramps up the tempo, with tracks not from the film – such as Million Dollar Bill, How Will I Know, One Moment in Time and Greatest Love of All – fleshing out the story.

Alexandra Burke in The BodyguardAlexandra Burke in The Bodyguard
Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard

The hero to Alexandra’s Rachel is played by Ben Lewis who is suitably stoic as the bodyguard who takes his job very seriously – to be fair if I needed a bodyguard I’d want him to take it seriously too.

Although their chemistry isn’t quite as sizzling as Whitney and Kevin’s and the American accents a little hammy, the pair do a great job of breathing new life into the film’s classic scenes, from their first encounter, in which a feisty Rachel protests she doesn’t need another bodyguard, to the club scene in which he lifts her up and saves her from the clutches of her suitably creepy stalker, played with a menacing presence by Phil Atkinson.

A particularly strong scene is their date night in which they go to a karaoke bar – filled with drunken girls performing Where Do Broken Hearts Go – in which Rachel performs one of her hits, I Have Nothing, much to the surprise of the other punters.

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Much like karaoke, and unlike most musicals, every one of the tracks is well-known and Alexandra’s soaring vocals work perfectly with the film’s big hitters such as Run to You, Queen of the Night and, of course, I Will Always Love You.

The musical is running at Sunderland Empire until November 23.The musical is running at Sunderland Empire until November 23.
The musical is running at Sunderland Empire until November 23.

I was also impressed with the vocals of her sister Nicki played by Emmy Willow who can certainly hold her own against Alexandra’s powerhouse talent.

Despite the violence and psychotic stalking themes of the piece, you can’t help but be uplifted by the singalong score and once the stalking’s stopped it’s time to dance in the encore. Even if you don’t wanna dance with somebody you’ll end up doing just that as the whole audience get up on their feet.

*The Bodyguard is running at Sunderland Empire until November 23.