The Bodyguard at Wales Millennium Centre – review

Cardiff theatre
The Bodyguard Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff 2023

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Thanks to Wales Millennium Centre for providing us with tickets to The Bodyguard for the purpose of this review

The Bodyguard was a cultural phenomenon when the film was released back in 1992. Starring Whitney Houston as global superstar singer and actress Rachel Marron, and Kevin Costner as Frank Farmer, the bodyguard hired to protect her from a sinister stalker, it earned a string of Academy Award and Grammy nominations, was the second highest grossing film of 1992 worldwide, behind only Aladdin, and became the 10th-highest-grossing film of all time at the time. The accompanying soundtrack sold over 45 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling soundtrack of all time, and winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. I Will Always Love You, Houston’s cover of the Dolly Parton classic, spent 10 weeks at number one in the UK charts and 14 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the best-selling physical single by a female artist of all time.

It’s no surprise then that the musical theatre adaptation has been a global success in its own right. Premiering in the West End in December 2012, it was nominated for four Olivier Awards, and to date has been seen by more than 3.6 million people in 15 countries.

And now it’s back in Cardiff as part of its third UK and Ireland tour, for an almost sold out week-long run at Wales Millennium Centre.

The Bodyguard Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff 2023

I took my 13 year old daughter to last night’s press performance – me, a huge Whitney and The Bodyguard fan, her more interested in the fact that former Pussycat Doll Melody Thornton is starring in the lead role, but familiar with lots of Houston’s music, and having seen the recent headlines about one of the shows in Manchester being halted due audience members having to be ‘forcibly removed’ having refused to stop singing along and ‘mini riots’ and ‘fights’ breaking out just before the end.

Thankfully there were no such disturbances in Cardiff (in fact, along with being asked to switch phones off, we’re asked not to sing along). What we got was just over two hours of powerhouse vocals, glitzy costumes, polished dance routines and a wonderful soundtrack of Whitney classics in a real show stopper of a musical; a romantic thriller with one heck of a soundtrack.

The stage version is slightly different to the film, but faithful enough that fans won’t feel disappointed, and with additional Whitney classic tracks cleverly interweaved too.

The Bodyguard Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff 2023

Whitney Houston’s shoes are big ones to fill in the lead role, not to mention the likes of Beverley Knight and Alexandra Burke who have also played the part on stage. Melody Thornton is excellent though; she’s sassy, looks amazing, dances faultlessly and carries off the musical numbers effortlessly. Thornton may be best known for being part of an energetic global pop act but I actually preferred her vocals in the slower ballads, in particular I Have Nothing and I Will Always Love You, which is where she truly shined. The faster more pop-based numbers (for example, the opener Queen of the Night) didn’t quite do her voice justice.

The Bodyguard Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff 2023

Emily-Mae as Rachel’s sister Nicki Marron is wonderful. I would have loved to have seen more from her as I felt her story wasn’t quite fully explored. Always in the shadow of her superstar sister, you can see her mixed emotions of love for her sister and resentment and jealously. Her solo vocal number, Saving All My Love For You, was powerful and tender and one of my favourite musical numbers.

The role of Rachel’s son Fletcher is played on rotation by four different young actors, with Frankie Keita taking to the stage last night. Just 10 years old, he absolutely nailed his singing and dancing scenes, holding his own among such an accomplished cast. His relationship with Frank was so sweet with so many tender moments. What a talent!

The Bodyguard Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff 2023

In the role of Frank is Ayden Callaghan, best known for Emmerdale and Hollyoaks, suitably detached in his role as protector but with that softer side shining through.

The special effects during some of the musical numbers are impressive, with smoke, flames, dazzling lights and more giving you pop concert feels. The lighting and sound effects also add plenty tension to the scenes with The Stalker played so chillingly well by Marios Nicolaides. Video is used to great effect throughout, especially in the scenes with The Stalker. It fits in nicely with the show being updated to modern times – mobile phones and social media weren’t even a thing when the film originally came out but help the plot move on quite cleverly in parts.

The age guidance is 10+ and I’d say for most of the show this is about right, however some children may find some parts a little frightening, especially towards the end. The stalker is sinister at times, there are a couple of jump-in-your-seat moments, loud bangs, and a death. My daughter at 13 loved the show but I think at 10 she would have found these parts upsetting.

That said, the curtain call ends the evening on a high with the entire auditorium up on their feet to I Wanna Dance With Somebody. This time, we are given full permission to sing and dance along, and that’s exactly what we do, ending on a high.

The Bodyguard Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff 2023

The Bodyguard at Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 29 April. Limited tickets are still available, priced from £19.50. See the Wales Millennium Centre website more information.

Age guidance 10+, no admittance to under 2s. Running length 2 hours 20 including interval.

The Bodyguard is touring the UK until 30 December 2023, full list of dates here.

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