REVIEW: LE BODYGUARD (Palais des Sports) ★★★
Based on the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard Musical opened in London in 2012 where it played for eighteen months before heading out on tour around the UK. The French production of the show has just opened in Paris for a six week run before it tours around France with songs performed in English and dialogue in French.
Whitney Houston’s greatest hits including One Moment In Time, I Wanna Dance With Somebody and of course the song that made the film so famous, I Will Always Love You are interwoven into the story of The Bodyguard. Well, more ‘half-heartedly put together’ than ‘interwoven’ I suppose is the case actually.
Superstar Rachel Marron hires bodyguard Frank Farmer for protection after a crazy fan becomes a concern for her and her sons safety. But a love triangle appears when both Rachel and her sister Nikki develop feelings for Frank and not everyone comes out of the story alive.
It’s all a bit of a pantomime on stage, with high-speed shoot-outs that don’t exactly get the audiences hearts racing or have us on the edge of our seats which is a shame. Scenes where Rachel is supposedly performing in front of thousands of screaming fans are staged with just a handful of ensemble cast pretending the be the audience of a sold out arena, which doesn’t help to make it all that believable.
Set design is much like the London production which unfortunately isn’t a good thing as it was minimal and so again doesn’t help to give the feeling of a lavish superstars life we are supposed to be following. A friend of mine who hadn’t seen the show before asked during the interval if it was a semi-staged performance compared to the West End version and was surprised when I said it was pretty much the same.
The key thing that has always made The Bodyguard a decent show is the powerhouse vocal performances that the likes of Heather Headley, Beverley Knight and Alexandra Burke have brought to the UK productions. Whitney Houston was a performer like no other and it takes a pretty remarkable singer to be able to pull-off those songs. Sadly, Valérie Daure (Rachel) never quite hits the notes you are hoping to hear and whilst she does a fine job with the songs, she is certainly no Whitney! Benoît Maréchal as Frank Farmer does an admirable job and singer Cylia stands out as the best singer as Rachels sister Nikki. In fact the role of Nikki Marron has always felt like a better part than that of Rachel to me, which is bizarre.
If you love Whitney Houston’s music and the film The Bodyguard then you’ll enjoy this production. But sadly the show has so much potential to be incredible and feels like a half hearted effort was made when putting the show together. And sadly the powerhouse vocal performances that have made the difference to this show previously, just don’t quite cut it in this production.
Reviewed by West End Wilma