If you’re looking for a night out filled with Whitney Houston tributes, an epic concert-like stage and costume design, and a show that is driven by an overall concert vibe, then The Bodyguard The Musical is perfect for you. However, if you favour a plot with depth, actor performances with tenacity and truth, and content that challenges views of the world, then this show definitely isn’t.
From the moment the musical begins, Australian singer Paulini and a fabulous live band blast through the lyric theatre like a huge concert arena. While some audience members immediately put fingers to their ears, others cheered aloud in delight, as if a true concert performance had begun. The concert vibe is complete with larger-than-life dancing from an enchanting ensemble, Tim Hatlet’s glitzy costumes and rich set design, and Paulini’s praiseworthy vocals. The production begins with a bang. As the show progresses the concert arena standard continues with Karen Bruce’s captivating choreography and a fantastically inclusive cast pushing for epic entertainment and rich visuals. Overall the concert elements of the work are stellar, it’s unfortunate that everything surrounding it is melodramatic, forced or lacking.
Epic musical numbers and stunning design aside, Alexander Dinelaris’ book is simplistic and dull. From the opening gunshot to the final iconic performance of I Will Always Love You, the tedious plot awkwardly pairs a deficient romantic relationship with a thriller chase between bodyguard and stalker. While these uniquely paired genres manage to sit beside one another throughout the show, they form a stark and off-putting contrast and end up feeling forced rather than inimitable. The parallel stories take turns, scene by scene, in a repetitive game of catch-up between musical diva Rachel’s (Paulini) droning emotional journey and the action and tension that follows Bodyguard Frank (Kip Gamblin) closely. While the story’s two plotlines are initially engaging, the tension within the thriller aspect is the only thing that keeps the plot progressing. As Rachel’s predicament sits closer to whining amongst spoilt stardom rather than influential to the story’s advancement, it’s a shame that her musical numbers are just as repetitive and excessive.
Whether a concert performance or private character solo Rachel’s songs are incessant, leaving only a few minutes left for dialogue in between. Overall the jukebox musical numbers are overused and stacked on top of an already spoon-fed plot, rendering the crucial musical element of the work an indulgent addition to simplistic character journeys. Rather than using the effective musical trait of using songs to provide insightful exploration of character or plot developments, the tracks are overlaid on top of dialogue that is so basic it spells out the relationships without a hint of subtlety or depth.
Like the work’s two paralleled genres, the performances are generally split into two categories of talent: vocal range or acting ability. While Paulini has a voice that can fill a theatre, her acting is painfully rehearsed and laughably melodramatic. Her acting between songs is nothing more than maintaining a prowess in her movements and an American accent for her dialogue. Her character’s crucial moments cry out for emotional depth, yet Paulini muffles them beneath overused physicality or a retreat to hiding behind her vocal range through song. Kip Gamblin’s presence as the stern yet intriguing bodyguard rescues the acting performances from being entirely tacky, however even his inclusion is let down when the musical choses to include its leading man’s only song for cringe comedy factor. Comedy is a consistent resort in this show, and while it’s often quite enjoyable, like the musical numbers, it takes away multiple opportunities for two-dimensional relationships to be given substantial depth. Notable mentions do go to Prinnie Stevens’ as the smoldering Nikki and Rome Champion as Rachel’s adorable son Fletcher. Stevens brings the much needed combination of sincerity during dialogue and vocal range during song with a vocal range equal to famous singer Paulini’s. Rome Champion steals the stage with a voice and energy not unlike a young Michael Jackson in The Jackson 5.
Overall The Bodyguard The Musical is hollow and dependent on its Hollywood glam and recognizable music. The work offers little to no social commentary or substance other than existing for entertainment value. If one is willing to forgive the deplorable plot and focus solely on the set list it is an enjoyable two and a half hours at a concert, but for those of us wanting more from a theatre production, the work is a woeful let down.
– Written by Rhumer Diball Jul 26th 2017
THE BODYGUARD THE MUSICAL PRESENTED BY QPAC .
19 Jul –13 Aug