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REVIEW: The Bodyguard at Sunderland Empire

The Bodyguard
Sunderland Empire
Tuesday 12th – Saturday 23rd November 2019

Tickets are now on sale online from ATG Tickets: BODYGUARD TICKET LINK #Ad

Alexandra Burke appears in The Bodyguard musical at the Sunderland Empire this week. We had the pleasure of checking out the new cast as they entertained the Wearside crowd on press night.

Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer (Ben Lewis), is hired to protect pop superstar Rachel Marron (Alexandra Burke) from an unknown stalker (James-Lee Harris). They both anticipate being in charge of the arrangement but end up falling in love.

** Photo Uli Weber
Yes, this is the same plot as the 1992 film of the same title that was the star vehicle for Whitney Houston back in the day. Of course, the first question for the fans of the music is “can they sing the Whitney songs live?” and when you’re looking at hits such as One Moment in Time , Saving All My Love for You and I Wanna Dance with Somebody then you’re looking at some really popular hits. Indeed Whitney, herself, found covering Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You live tough going. [Yes regular readers: that’s two consecutive shows at the Empire with the music of Dolly P!]

This show is more spectacular than thought provoking drama.  Sometimes one needs that. The singing duties are mainly handled by Alexandra Burke with occasional confident and capable assistance from Emmy Willow who plays her sister Nicki. Both have the ability to handle these tricky songs.

The show begins with a shooting but it has no explanation before the huge screen shows a promotion film for the successful star Rachel Marron. This then transcends into a big arena or Saturday evening type gig with fabulous lighting and flames shooting up. Tight choreography percolates thought the two hours but is most notable at the start and finish.  Indeed, this is one show in which it was worth hanging on for the final post applause big number I Wanna To Dance With Somebody. Plus you finally get to see the tight live band as the video projections appear at the very, very end.

Story wise, this is a paper-thin love story that plays a very straight bat. You have a stalker that crops up, a PR who is only interested in the singer’s profile and a security guard who grows to respect the bodyguard in a predictable fashion.  But (and it is a big but), that doesn't matter. The fans of the show want the love story, the songs and the spectacle and they get that by the bucketful.

Burke builds up through the show and knocks it out of the park at the end. Looking fabulous in her outfit, she is very much the Rachel Marron for the musical generation. It has to be said that the cast all look fabulous, like it was some 1930s musical film.

The lighting and set design help reinforce the Empire’s claim to be the West End in the North East. Indeed, the moment when the bodyguard removes the singer from a situation and the shadow of the pair is held in the smoke in a very clever way.

Special mention to the lad playing the son Fletcher. Such confidence and dance moves. He is one to watch if he decides to keep it up.

The Bodyguard delivers what it promised. A larger than life love story with great songs played well. There's nothing wrong with that.

Review by Stephen Oliver.

Photos: Paul Coltas (except ** Photo Ulii Weber)


*Alexandra Burke will perform the role of ‘Rachel Marron’ at evening performances only. Alexandra Burke is not scheduled to perform Wednesday 20th November 7.30pm show. Patrons should check before booking, *The producers of The Bodyguard cannot guarantee the appearance of any particular artist, which is always subject to illness and holidays.

Tickets are now on sale online from ATG Tickets: BODYGUARD TICKET LINK #Ad

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