As far as cheesy and ridiculously melodramatic stage productions go, The Bodyguard Musical takes the cake. Were the over dramatic scenes intended to be funny? I’m not sure. Was the acting subpar? Absolutely. But did the powerful ballads make up for this? The Goosebumps I felt when Paulini Curuenavuli, ripped into ‘I Have Nothing,’ strongly indicates yes.
The stage adaptation of the 1992 hit film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner may have some flaws, but when it gets something right it shines. Officially opening its four week Melbourne season last night at the Regent Theatre, the musical ended with everyone out of their seats and dancing to ‘I Want to Dance with Somebody.’
The opening scene starts off with a bang, literally! I jumped right out of my seat. It made me jump so much that I completely missed what was going on. Then all of the sudden Paulini comes on stage, accompanied by a shiny dress and literal bursts of fire, introducing her character Rachel Marron. For those unaware of the narrative, the quick summary is that Rachel Marron (Paulini) is a musical superstar who has become the subject of a dangerous stalker’s (played by Brendan Irving) obsession. Her team calls in a new bodyguard, Frank Farmer (played by Neighbours Kip Gamblin) to protect her.
The script is simple and each scene rolls through like clog work. But unlike traditional musicals, no-one breaks into song mid conversation, instead the ballads and dance numbers are woven into the plot. This tactic saves the script from becoming too mechanical.
This is most evident in the Karaoke scene. Three drunken girls screech their way through ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go?’ and then the bodyguard himself attempts to belt out, ‘I Will Always Love You,’ before Rachel Maron takes the stage and performs a show stopping, ‘I Have Nothing,’ to the shock of everyone in the bar. The stage momentarily turns into a night’s sky as Paulini stretches her vocals throughout the theatre and it’s a truly captivating moment.
The only thing that lets this scene down (and that lingers throughout the show), is the lack of chemistry between Paulini and Kip. Their romance feels too staged. More flames are felt between Prinnie Stevens (who plays Nicki Maron, Rachel’s sister) and Kip, but Prinnie’s performance (much like her character) gets overshadowed by Paulini.
Another area where the performance falls short is during the intended big dramatic scenes. Where I think the audience was supposed to be left in awe-stricken suspense, we were instead left giggling. Whilst Irving did a marvellous job of coming across as incredibly creepy as the stalker (so much so that I think everyone was almost too scared to applaud him at the end), every time he come up on the big screen it was almost comical. The Shadowplay used to project static images to emphasis scenes or montages, accompanied by cliché melodies, felt a little too cringe worthy.
However in saying that, there was one violent action scene that used compressed, tacky slow-motion and intense strobe lighting that absolutely had me on the edge of my seat. Cheesy and dramatic- but my god thrilling!
Despite the current legal controversy surrounding Paulini’s personal life, she wasn’t going to let anything stop her from being the star of the show. Not even her questionable acting, which was eclipsed by her incredible vocal range.
Singing songs made famous by one of the world’s most beloved pop divas was always going to be a tough feat, but as she stood on a mini stage that elevated into the air whilst singing, ‘I Will Always Love You,’ the power in her voice was undeniable.
Finishing the night with a mass sing-and-dance along to ‘I Want to Dance With Somebody,’ really capped off a fun night and left the audience feeling elated. It’s safe to say I will be cranking Whitney Huston on the train ride home for the next week or so.
You can catch The Bodyguard Musical at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre until October 31st. Head HERE for more information.
The reviewer attended the performance on August 29th.