Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Bodyguard (The Musical), Aug 29, 2017 ***1/2

Book by Alexander Dinelaris; based on Warner Bros film & screenplay by Lawrence Kasden
Produced by John Frost, Michael Harrison & David Lynn (with others)
At Regent Theatre, Melbourne, until October 29, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ***1/2
This review is NOT published in Herald Sun Arts & was not commissioned by Herald Sun. It is published only here on this blog. KH

Paulini Curuenavuli certainly has the powerhouse voice capable of delivering Whitney Houston’s distinctive and wildly successful hits but, disappointingly, The Bodyguard remains a series of great songs in search of a musical.

Fans of Houston will not be disappointed by Curuenavuli’s performance of the power ballads, catchy dance tunes and bold anthems. The repertoire of songs is extensive, including How Will I Know, Queen of the Night, One Moment in Time, Run to You, I’m Every Woman, Greatest Love of All and Saving All My Love.

In this musical with book by Alexander Dinelaris (based on the 1992 movie starring Houston and Kevin Costner), Curuenavuli plays Rachel Marron, a pop diva whose life is threatened by a Stalker (Brendan Irving) thereby forcing her manager, Bill (Patrick Williams), to employ bodyguard, Frank Farmer (Kip Gamblin), to protect her.

The show doesn’t take off until the end of Act One when three goofy, tipsy gals perform a hilarious karaoke version of Where Do Broken Hearts Go that is followed by Curuenavuli’s bold and moving delivery of the power ballad, I Have Nothing.

The highlight in this production is the finale of I Will Always Love You followed by a kicker encore of I Wanna Dance With Somebody during which Curuenavuli comes to life as herself and urges the opening night audience to stand and dance in their seats.

At this final point in the show, after the curtain call, Curuenavuli morphs into a pop singer effectively working the crowd in a way that she cannot do while in the character of Rachel, inside a story, in a musical.

The problem with this show is that the adaptation from screen does not work for the stage.

Yes, this is a jukebox musical, but the scene structure is bumpy, the songs are not contextualised, they do not advance the story and do not illuminate the characters’ journeys as they should or can do in a musical, so the tunes seem to be strung together as if on a musical washing line.

This show, directed by Thea Sharrock, focuses on one character, Rachel, and is a vehicle for the lead performer. It therefore relies almost totally on only one singing voice and, although Curuenavuli’s voice is often thrilling, the show cries out for some dynamic range, a few duets or a layering or variety of voices.

Another issue is that Curuenavuli is a singer but not a skilled actor and dancer, so the character of Rachel lacks the charisma required for such a role, and the choreography (Karen Bruce) generally masks her limited dance skill by surrounding her with a sassy and talented dance ensemble.

The songs eclipse the paper-thin story about Rachel’s quest for an Oscar, her pursuit by a menacing Stalker and the side-plot about Rachel’s sister’s jealousy (Prinnie Stevens).

The Bodyguard is really a concert with a bit of a story between songs, but it is a fine tribute to Houston’s stellar but too-short career.

By Kate Herbert

Director – Thea Sharrock
Choreographer – Karen Bruce
Set & Costume Design ­– Tim Hatley
Lighting Design - Mark Henderson

Paulini Curuenavuli -Rachel Marron
Kip Gamblin- Frank Farmer
Prinnie Stevens- Nicki Marron
Glaston Toft -Ray Court
Andrew Hazzard -Sy Spector
Brendan Irving- The Stalker
Patrick Williams -Bill Devaney
Damien Bermingham -Tony
Aston Droomer - Fletcher (on opening night)

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