The Bodyguard: flash, camp, spectacular singing, a sexy stalker and chorus boys galore
by Drew Rowsome - Photos by Paul Coltas
The Bodyguard begins with a literal bang. Attention guaranteed, there is a snippet of nonsensical plot information before launching into a frenzied and fabulous musical numbers. The astounding Beverley Knight is surrounded by distractingly stunning chorus boys, all undulating abs and glass-cutting nipples executing heart-stopping choreography while the beat pounds and blinding lights flash. It would throw Sofonda into paroxysms of jealousy.
It threw the audience into sheer ecstasy. And kept them there. The plot remains nonsensical - and mostly incomprehensible - but the music is glorious. And every time there needs to be another magnificent set change, Beverley Knight as Rachel Marron pop superstar, steps out front and unleashes her voice and the audience is salivating. Everything, except the ballads which are a wonderful wallow, moves quickly which is just as well because trying to puzzle out what is happening is pointless.
For some reason Stuart Reid, the bodyguard or rather The Bodyguard, decides to work with a pop superstar who is being menaced by The Stalker. For some reason The Stalker is obsessed with the pop superstar and sneaks into her dressing room to leave a threatening note and steal a dress. For some reason, for which we will forever be grateful, he does not wear the dress: The Stalker is shirtless for most of the first act and Matthew Stathers' muscled torso is a special effect that outdoes all the explosions, bright lights, shooting flames and even most of the high notes.
For some reason the pop superstar and The Bodyguard, who loathe each other on sight, fall into bed and into love. For some reason there is a love triangle featuring the pop star's sister, or it just may be an excuse to give Rachel John, whose voice is also astounding, a chance to spell Knight. For some reason The Stalker finds them all in a remote cabin in the woods and at the Academy Awards. For some reason he is shot and for some reason true love does not prevail. There are massive projections that ostensibly provide exposition, but mostly they emphasize the production's tendency to dive headfirst into glorious spectacular camp. There are moments that are so jaw-droppingly, giddily atrocious that they are beyond fabulous.
The pattern of bits of melodramatic plot followed by either a full-scale number or a power ballad, works astonishingly well. And the excess, leading to camp, is perfectly fitting for an over-sized pop superstar and The Bodyguard becomes an extremely satisfying whole. It is only afterwards that one is utterly confused as to why Knight sings - in a staging ripped off from Cats which Knight has also starred in - "I Will Always Love You" when it should, logically, have been Reid's character. No matter, it is the big 11 o'clock number and Knight sells it to the stratosphere. And it is followed by disco balls, confetti cannons, and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" sung by the entire cast and the entire audience.
Everyone left elated and in a state of euphoria. While it may be a jumble, The Bodyguard has everything one could want from a musical: hooky songs, incredible sets, jump scares, a love story, a child actor who manages to charm (Jaden Oshenye at the performance I saw), a comic karaoke sequence that Reid knocks out of the park, and, it must be repeated, chorus boys (kudos to Raul Naranjo Garcia, Christopher Jeffers, Ellliot Powell, Pablo Ceresuela Torres, Matthew Wesley, Michael Wade-Peters and Mark Willshire) who even in their more sedate costumes keep bursting out of their shirts.
Amidst all the flash, trash and Whitney Houston hits - all sung with more passion than poor Whitney, rest her lack of soul, could ever muster - there is a magical moment that stands out. Knight sings in a recording booth, expressing her inexplicable love for the handsome but stolid Reid. She is dressed down, the pop superstar is clad dowdily offstage but Knight shines through it, and only visible from the waist up. And she sings the shit out of "All The Man I Need." And in that moment The Bodyguard transcends any need to tether itself to any form of reality, logic or even its vaguely film noir style. It is just to be accepted, enjoyed and revelled in.
Noel Coward said, "Strange how potent cheap music is." The Bodyguard music is a grade above cheap - Houston could afford the best pop songwriters there are - and the packaging is slick and glossy even if irresistibly incoherent. Coward, and Sofonda, hell anybody including this cynical non-Houston fan, would love it.
The Bodyguard continues until Sun, April 9 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St. mirvish.com