REVIEW: The Bodyguard, Sunderland Empire, Until March 12
It started as it meant to go on '“ with a bang.
The Bodyguard is a fast-paced terror-laden thrill ride packed to the rafters with huge Whitney Houston hits.
Based on the 1992 film of the same name, which starred the late singer, it follows super famous popstar Rachel Marron (Zoe Birkett).
After she starts receiving threatening letters from a stalker (Matthew Stathers), her manager hires renowned bodyguard Frank Farmer (Stuart Reid) to ensure her safety.
The pair get off to a rocky start but soon fall in love, but as their feelings for each other grow, so does the impending danger.
North East native Birkett was exceptional in the leading role, she completely embodied the diva performer and scared single mum of Fletcher (T’Jai Adu-Yeboah).
Her first performance, of track Queen of the Night, showed her to be a vocal powerhouse, and whether it was upbeat pop hits or heart-rending ballads, her vocals were flawless. She hit impossibly-high notes as the crowd showered her with love.
She looked stunning in the role and everyone went wild as she belted out finale number I Will Always Love You as she was raised above the audience.
Reid made for a dashing bodyguard and had the audience chuckling with his own out-of-tune rendition of the famous finale track during a karaoke bar scene.
Stathers was suitably-sinister as the stalker. His glassy stare as he caressed a dress he stole from Rachel’s dressing room was terrifying. Pre-recorded snippets of him compiling his threatening letters, coupled with spine-chilling music, made my blood curdle.
Some audience members seemed to have a much more macabre sense of humour than me though, as they laughed out loud during the menacing scenes.
The panto-style boos he received during the bows was brilliant. It changed to cheers and applause as he held up his hands as if to say, ‘it wasn’t me’.
Rachel John was also fantastic as the popstar’s sister Nicki Marron. She had an incredible singing voice and was at the centre of some heart-breaking moments in the show.
The sliding set was fantastic, with panels that moved across the stage to create different rooms and locations.
There was a slight delay before the second act got going, but it didn’t dampen the spirits of those in the audience.
Songs like How Will I Know, Million Dollar Bill, Saving All My Love and So Emotional were performed beautifully.
The crowd rose from their seats to give Birkett a well-deserved standing ovation as she took her bow and stayed on their feet to sing and bop along to I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
This is the second time I’ve seen the show, and it was even better this time around. Can I go again?
The Bodyguard runs at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday, March 12. Click here to book tickets.