“The Bodyguard” is making a pit stop at the Lyceum Theatre Sheffield in a long run of shows to complete a glamorous national tour. Where this show is certainly romantic and thrilling, it may be a little bit cliché for an audience anticipating a deeply hearty Whitney Houston rendition of the 1992 film.
The art of theatre, as we all know, is built by thousands of creative minds. Each idea contributes to the marvellous moments a performer can capture on stage. And in closely analysing each aspect of such, “The Bodyguard” was constructed in a well thought out but perhaps slightly laissez-fair manner. The set, especially, felt touch-and-go with the constantly moving curtains and flats. However, the colour scheme made a lovely juxtaposition between inside and outside scenes, thoroughly contributing to the visual imagery a set should supply to an audience. The neutral tones of cream in various fabrics to elaborate on the prosperity of Rachel Marron’s victorious life were an eloquent touch.
Frequently, the set design collaborated with lighting to project holographic images and texts onto different curtains. This particular idea, although very progressive in today’s musical theatre world, did not serve highly on its execution. In these intervals the atmosphere in the auditorium felt disconnected. Furthermore, the images and videos that were showcased featured pictures of the actors looking nothing like they did in the performance. This took away an element of theatre magic for those in the audience. Zooming into the more emotional pauses in the story, lighting designer Mark Henderson did perfectly attack the stage with bold red and blue stripes which framed the action. Moreover, the lighting design must be credited for the co-ordinated reaction to all the colour on stage, never failing to match the vibrancy.
The costume/wardrobe design was nothing short of shiny. What stood out the most, was the matching ensemble costumes, this significantly elevated the togetherness in every performer’s work. And, the immense detail in Rachel Marron’s Oscar performance dress (and other show dresses) was a stand out feature.
Nothing sparks a Whitney Houston-like excitement quite like a live band, and in this production Beadle and their band certainly provided some seriously soul shuddering intense beats. The volume was up allowing the musical notes to fly right out of the orchestra pit.
Overall the creative producers did thread together a coherent physical segment of the performance. They successfully created an impactful storyboard for the actors to manipulate.
The use of staging throughout this performance was elaborate, once again demonstrating the bedazzled life of the protagonist. For instance, a rising platform was used in a musical number to draw attention to Marron. Some theatrical choices from Director Thea Sharrock were intriguing. At times, the cast played their roles realistically, then in other moments, work was in a highly stylised genre. Regardless, the audience responded well to this break in the genre. A great example of this technique was when performers switched to a slow-motion pace to heighten the suspense of the climax in the second act.
Taking on the part of the bodyguard, Ayden Callaghan mastered the perfect staleness of a man in that position. His timing and comedic responsiveness was amusing, it felt like every twitch was truly the bodyguard’s own person. Callaghan embodied his role effectively.
Emily Williams, as Rachel Marron, commanded the essence of her character with beautiful authenticity. Williams’ voice echoed through the theatre diligently in every number. More energy in opening the show may be necessary to fully capturing the audience’s attention, in Williams’ case, because the skill and talent was just fabulous.
Emily-Mae soared through the role of Niki Marron by using her epic vocal diversity. The actress was tentative in plucking apart the finer emotional content attached to her character, forming acute facial expressions and most importantly, not overplaying her tragic downfall in the denouement.
Young Ryo Appadu smashed his role as Fletcher, Marron’s son. Appadu projected well, incorporated some funky dance moves and always responded with haste to the development of the plot around him.
James Groom, John Macaulay and Graham Elwell all brought a unique slice of comedy to ‘The Bodyguard’. These men in supporting roles each performed with graduer and splendour. Despite having less stage time than others, it was clear that these actors had depth in their characters which they used to build pivotal relationships while present.
The ensemble worked tirelessly through the production which highlighted the fantastical show-biz message of the play- what we see on the outside may not be a reflection of behind stage, as I’m sure they are all feeling well exercised now! I applaud all of them for demonstrating their advance technique in dance, and for some, singing. The partner work was wonderfully mesmerising, displaying the quick pace and beautifully tied fluidity in the choreography of Karen Bruce. Additionally, the ensemble nailed a background stage presence, always ensuring that they were engaged in inaudible but meaningful chatter and gesture.
All in all, ‘The Bodyguard’ is an impressive piece of musical theatre, guided by the mighty cast and efforts from the creative team.
The Bodyguard is playing at the Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 14th October where it will continue its tour.