Tag Archives: Micha Richardson

Look Who’s Stalking

THE BODYGUARD

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Wednesday 26th June,2019

 

Never having watched the Whitney Houston-Kevin Costner film, I come to Alexander Dinelaris’s stage adaptation of Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay without expectations – other than I expect to know the songs (the score is Houston’s back catalogue).  But will the whole enterprise be nothing more than a glorified, glamourised jukebox musical?

Short answer: yes.

Longer answer: yes, it is.

Rachel Marron is a diva at the top of her game, and as stroppy a Queen of the Night as her namesake in The Magic Flute.  When security expert Frank Farmer is hired to protect her from the nutter who has been sending creepy messages, she digs in her high heels and stubbornly refuses to comply with the measures Frank puts in place.  You can see where it’s going: she gets in danger, Frank rescues her, and it’s not long before they’re snogging.  Frank is conflicted with this blending of his professional and personal lives.  Meanwhile, the nutter is becoming more audacious, and Rachel’s overshadowed sister is mooning over Frank with unrequited affection…

It’s a loud, brash, lavish affair and I have to say I enjoyed it immensely.  As the determined diva, Jennlee Shallow is the real deal, a phenomenal belter-outerer of Houston’s signature songs.  (Alexandra Burke will take over the role for the second week of the show’s sojourn in Wolverhampton).  Shallow is matched by Micha Richardson as sister Nicki – her renditions of Saving All My Love For You and All At Once are definite highlights for me.

French actor (and renard d’argent) Benoît Maréchal is unbelievably handsome in the role of Frank Farmer, bringing Gallic charm and charisma to the role.  His lacklustre karaoke version of I Will Always Love You is hilarious.  In fact, the best scenes between the two leads are when they lighten up with each other.

Phil Atkinson is an imposing and menacing presence as The Stalker, although I wonder how he has time to run a campaign of terror when he is clearly never out of the gym.

The plot may be simplistic but such are the production values, with Tim Hatley’s sliding set and Mark Henderson’s cinematic lighting, we are swept along.  It’s a love story, a thriller and above all, a reminder of how many great tunes Whitney Houston put out there.  The hits keep coming and the orchestra, led by Michael Riley, is superb.

This is musical theatre on a grand scale, a spectacle, a chance to escape from reality for a couple of hours, and it manages to deliver the goods without descending into schmaltz and sentimentality.

I may not have seen the film, but I have heard the old joke about Whitney Houston’s favourite kind of coordination…

Hand-eye………………….

Jennlee Shallow and Benoît Maréchal in The Bodyguard UK Tour - 2704 - Photo by Paul Coltas [1]

Up in arms: Jennlee Shallow and Benoît Maréchal (Photo: Paul Coltas)

 

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Flat Pop

The latest jukebox musical on the block is a real nostalgia fest for fans of 1970s pop.  It strings together songs by hitmakers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman who wrote classic tracks for the likes of Suzi Quatro, Mud, and The Sweet.  With shows of this type you expect the links to songs to be tenuous at best and the plot to be contrived in such a way as to maximise the potential to include as much of the back catalogue as possible.  The problem with this particular piece of inconsequential fluff is it takes itself too seriously.  An injection of camp would make it more engaging.

The story, such as it is, tells of busker Mickey Block (‘my friends call me Buster’) who, fleeing from creditors, takes refuge in a mysterious museum of rock and roll, run by Crazy Max (Paul Nicholas in a cowboy hat).  Max sends Mickey back in time to 1972 in order to perform ‘two good deeds’, via a record booth that doubles as a portal through the fourth dimension.  Of course.  In 1972, Mickey falls in love – the implications and potential consequences of time-travel do not feature.  Apart from a stray reference to Facebook and Twitter, Mickey fits right in.  No one bats an eyelid.

Mickey (Aaron Sidwell) is a likeable sort who plays a mean guitar but the show really lifts when Carol (Suzanne Shaw) belts out Devilgate Drive.  Shaw’s voice is perfectly suited to this type of music; all of her numbers are a treat but for me the musical highlight is when Jodie (Micha Richardson) performs Better Be Good To Me with depth and emotional truth.

David Soames’s script is lazy.  When Alice (Louise English) tells neighbour Paul Nicholas (sans cowboy hat) that she is moving house because she cannot afford the mortgage, he launches into a rather dour rendition of Living Next Door To Alice, which includes the line “I don’t know why she’s leaving” as part of the refrain.  (Weren’t you listening, man? I would have shouted but I was too busy singing the Chubby Brown version: Alice?  Who the f— is Alice?)  Nicholas’s voice is deeper and richer than it was during his own pop heyday but, like the show as a whole (which he also directs) he needs to lighten up a bit.

The mostly youthful cast is a talented bunch who perform some excellent Flick Colby-style choreography by Rebecca Howell.  The Young Generation and Pan’s People spring to mind.  Too often the plot comes to a halt for yet another number – unlike ‘straight’ musicals (if I can call them that!) where songs develop story or reveal character, here the songs and the plot get in the way of each other.  There’s a completely unnecessary version of Lonely This Christmas played on a shoehorn.

Blockbuster is just not as much fun as it ought to be.  This pop musical has too few bubbles to keep it fizzy.

blockbuster