Wednesday 22 March 2017

Review: Cheesy thrills honour original queen of pop

Theatre: The Bodyguard, Bord Gais Energy Theatre

Ed Power

Ed Power

Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard musical
Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard musical

The death of Whitney Houston at the age of 48 has applied a retrospective veneer to The Bodyguard, one of the final moments the soon-to-be-tragic singer stood unblemished before the world. In fact, the 1992 movie was a cheesy mess, denied even a shot at one day becoming a camp classic by Kevin Costner's sour turn as Houston's alleged love interest.

There was no chemistry between the leads, the songs were endlessly bloated, while the plot was ludicrous (forgiveable) and plodding (a capital offence for a rom-com).

For all those reasons, The Bodyguard is an unlikely springboard for a feel-good musical.

Enormous credit is therefore due to Alexander Dinelaris who, from unpromising raw materials, has spun a winningly silly two-and-a-half hours of Broadway spectacle, taking the positives from the film (its full tilt battiness) and dispensing with the dreary stuff (many Costner scenes are expunged).

Revived for an Ireland and UK tour, this new production has the added advantage of a leading lady with proper pop-star wattage in the shape of X Factor graduate Alexandra Burke (her American accent wavers almost not at all) and, in the intermittently dashing Stuart Reid, better known to Irish audiences as a voice-over artist, a more than serviceable Costner stand-up.

Accompanying their heroic strivings are top notch technical trimmings, with Tim Hatley's deft set and Mark Henderson's inventive lighting conjuring nightclubs and zillionaire mansions with dazzling aplomb.

Sprinkled with smashes from throughout Houston's run as a hit-machine, the musical undoubtedly paints with broad strokes - but then, who is here for Tony-worthy dialogue or cutting-edge narrative?

This is theatrical cheesecake, ecstatically over-the-top and not in the least self-conscious about it.

Irish Independent

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