CREAGH/CARR REVIEW: The Bodyguard, MK Theatre

Alexandra Burke (centre) as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard
Alexandra Burke (centre) as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard

You get two for the price of one with the Creagh/Carr Review – the opinions of seasoned hackette Bev Creagh and flamboyant newshound Stewart Carr. Here’s what they thought of The Bodyguard playing at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday, April 6.

CREAGH SAYS... There was a full house and a standing ovation on the first night of The Bodyguard at Milton Keynes Theatre.

But I don’t think the movie’s late star, Whitney Houston, need lose any sleep in that big Green Room in the sky.

It gets off to an explosive start – but this is the third time former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke has played the lead role of R&B singer Rachel Marron. And maybe, just maybe, she’s not as fresh as she was first time round. She has a beautiful voice, granted, but her diction sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. And a dancer she ain’t - in spite of her Strictly form.

In several scenes with her sister Nicki (Micha Richardson), Burke is outshone both vocally and in energy levels.

The story revolves around Rachel and Frank Farmer, the man hired to provide extra security from a crazy stalker.

You know it can only end in tears because when a bodyguard falls in love with the diva he’s supposed to protect, he loses his vital edge.

Hunky blond Benoit Marechal plays Frank Farmer so straight he’s almost wooden. And in his clinches with Rachel, there’s very little chemistry. No smouldering desire ignited into a flame of passion. No tongues, just teeth.

Most of the other characters are pretty one-dimensional, apart from Rachel’s 10-year-old son Fletcher – a brilliant performance from Lemar Bucknor Jnr, a young Michael Jackson in the making (if one can make such a comment in these PC times).

He positively sparkles on stage, bringing a joie de vivre, vigour and vibrancy that other cast members would do well to emulate.

The Bodyguard is basically a showcase for some of Whitney Houston’s best loved songs, including the unbearably poignant I Will Always Love You, and hits such as Greatest Love of All, I Wanna Dance with Somebody and One Moment in Time.

And on that level, it works extremely well.

CARR SAYS... An evening of classic Whitney Houston cabaret is glued together with paper-thin romance and melodrama in one of musical theatre’s biggest guilty pleasures!

The Bodyguard movie from 1992 was Whitney’s great leap into film-acting and, despite critics’ barbs, it yielded her biggest number one smash with ‘I Will Always Love You’.

It seems natural then, the film would be used as the basis of the musical produced after her death, with the silly plot watered down even further to make way for other hits.

Alexandra Burke steps into Whitney’s shoes as the unstarry-named Rachel Marron - supposedly the world’s biggest pop singer - being threatened by a murderous stalker.

Burke’s warm and dulcie contralto tones are better suited to the ballads (the epic finale of ‘I Will Always Love You’ received rapturous applause) than the classic party anthems. Despite being fairly seasoned in the role, Burke looks ill-at-ease when on stage in full Beyonce regalia, barely able to keep up with the hoard of scantily-clad dancers who are clearly living in the moment.

As for the rest, Benoit Marechal is pretty wooden as the bodyguard in question along with most of the supporting cast. An exception is Micha Richardson, who shines as Rachel’s talented sister Nicki, and child actor Lemar Bucknor Jnr as Rachel’s break-dancing son Fletcher.

Goofy, romantic and hauntingly sentimental in light of the singer’s death, The Bodyguards delivers exactly what viewers want and scored a standing ovation. Playing at MK Theatre until Saturday, March 16, see here for tickets.