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Theatre Review: The Bodyguard ***

Scott Purvis reviews the touring production of the hit West End musical.

Within ten seconds of the curtain rising, Michael Harrison's production of The Bodyguard explodes with all of the spectacle of an X-Factor final - lights dazzle, noise booms and Karen Bruce's concert choreography of near-naked bodies grips. This is a stadium-tour of a show, a shrine to the sounds of one of music's greatest voices which plays cassette-tape hits like "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and "I Will Always Love You" at full volume.

Updated with selfies and references to Instagram, Alex Dinelaris' thriller of a book follows the plot of Whitney Houston's 1992 star-vehicle. As in the original, megastar singer Rachel Marron is forced to hire Frank Farmer as her bodyguard after a sinister threat from an obsessive fan. Throw in a love triangle and some production values worthy of Whitney's farewell tour and you should have another straight from VHS West End hit.

Although these components of the production are strong, unfortunately the leads' acting is not. Alexandra Burke is a born entertainer, of course, but there's little emotional connection in her delivery of lines. Her airy, breathy voice at times creates an aloofness that distances her from the other actors and the character she portrays. Bodyguard Michael Benoit, too, cuts the right look in his handsome grey suit but his delivery is often difficult to decipher and without much impact, derailing suspense in moments of dramatic tension. The effect is that The Bodyguard feels filmic, not cinematic, a big-budget box-office chaser built around the superficial look and sound of its two headline acts.

Nonetheless, the pair are propped up by some very good supporting actors and an energetic ensemble of very talented dancers. Micha Richardson is excellent as Marron's jealous sister, wielding a voice which matches Burke's in power. Phillip Atkinson's brooding ever-presence as Marron's stalker racks some much needed tension throughout, even if the audience seem more interested in his muscles than his malevolence.

Overall, this is a visually striking boom box of a show which stirs the senses, if not always the emotions.

The Bodyguard is at the Edinburgh Playhouse before continuing its tour.

Tags: theatre

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