The Bodyguard pays homage to superstar Whitney Houston at The Regent Theatre

The international, award-winning smash-hit musical The Bodyguard opened at The Regent Theatre this week with quite a literal bang. Fiery, fierce and flirty, the glittering show has everything you need for the ultimate rom-com, including drama, romance, and, of course, a show-stopping Whitney Houston soundtrack.

For opening night, Samantha Mbolekwa stepped into the shoes of female lead Rachel Marron, making her UK tour debut in place of Pussycat Doll Melody Thornton, who was representing the show at the Big Night of Musical’s at AO Arena that evening. 

And it wasn’t just Melody’s heels she was filling in the star role, with celebrities like Alexandra Burke and Beverley Knight having previously played the singer, originally portrayed by Whitney herself in the 1992 Oscar nominated Warner Bros. movie. 

Paul Coltas

Directed by Thea Sharrock, the stage adaptation of the movie – which also stars Kevin Costner – has been nominated for four Olivier Awards, having been played to over 3.6 million people in 15 countries and 45 US cities.

The storyline sees former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge, but what they don’t expect is to fall in love.

On stage, Rachel (Samantha Mbolekwa) and Frank (Ayden Callaghan) have an electric chemistry, the audience fully invested in their blossoming relationship. Some particularly tender moments leave the viewers willing the pair together, notably when Frank scoops Rachel out of harm’s way at a nightclub.

Ayden is best known for his roles as Miles De Souza in Emmerdale and fan favourite Joe Roscoe in Hollyoaks, but the performer has also been in  Doctors, Eastenders, Bad Education, Casualty and The Bill. 

A scene in a cheesy karaoke bar brings shock when Frank reveals a beautiful alto vocal, resemblant to Elvis or Johnny Cash. This scene also provided some light relief from some of the heavier themes in the production, alongside comical one-liners throughout the show.

Paul Coltas

Samantha, as Rachel, has a fantastic belt, and offered stunning renditions of I Have Nothing and Million Dollar Bill, but her nerves perhaps showed in some of her softer vocals. That said, it almost added to the notion of Rachel’s character development, with the show leading up to a faultless take on I Will Always Love You, which felt like a really beautiful tribute to the late superstar.

The breathtakingly romantic thriller features a whole host of irresistible classics including Queen of the Night, So Emotional, One Moment in Time, Run to You and Greatest Love Of All.

But it was Emily-Mae’s vocals as Rachel’s sister Nicki which completely blew me away, her version of Saving All My Love was nothing short of stunning and I don’t think she missed a note the entire evening. 

Paul Coltas

Marios Nicolaides shone as The Stalker, despite not actually having any on-stage lines. He brings a real sense of foreboding and suspense to the show, speeding up the pace and giving Frank the chance to be the knight in shining armour. The power struggle between the stalker and Frank was an interesting dynamic too, one which eventually went on to break the fourth wall during the Oscars, really pulling the audience into the story.

Paul Coltas

The show closed with a different kind of bang, the act ending with a Strictly-worthy routine from the talented ensemble to I’m Every Women, followed by a party curtain call to I Wanna Dance With Somebody with dazzling costumes, comedy and charisma.

The Bodyguard will be at The Regent Theatre until March 4, with tickets starting from £13.

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