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A Review: The Bodyguard The Musical At Eastbourne Congress

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Playing the role made famous by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard every night must be terrifying.

Not because it was the singer’s acting debut playing opposite Hollywood heavyweight Kevin Costner in a simple story - where boy (former Secret Service agent Frank Farmer) meets girl (diva pop star Rachel Marron) who is being stalked by an obsessed psycho threatening to kill her - but because of the soundtrack.  

With sales of more than 45 million copies worldwide, it became the best-selling soundtrack of all time, and won a Grammy for album of the year. Two of the most memorable, the singles I Have Nothing and Run To You, were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Then there’s one of the greatest songs of all time: I Will Always Love You, along with a cover of Chaka Khan’s hit I’m Every Woman, along with classics So Emotional, One Moment in Time, and Queen of The Night.

Stepping into Rachel’s high heels for The Bodyguard The Musical is the equivalent of performing at The 02 Arena in London or New York’s Madison Square Garden night after night, something even the late – and great – Whitney would have found daunting at the height of her fame and success.

But Emily Williams made it look effortless at Eastbourne's Congress Theatre from the first note until the last, using her phrasing and pitch-perfect vocals to help tell the story, and add a layer of emotion and vulnerability into her character that was lacking in the movie.

Emily, who rose to fame after coming second on Australian Idol in 2005, doesn’t play Rachel as a one-dimensional diva, pouting, strutting and demanding her own way for the sake of it. Her superstar is a modern-day single mum, keeping the entire family together, while worrying about her image, career, and an Oscar, at the expense of her own safety.

Like her character, her voice can be soft and vulnerable or strong and powerful, belting out the hits and getting the audience in turns mesmerised and clapping along.

But Emily doesn’t overshadow the rest of the cast. Emily-Mae matches her note for note as jealous, big sister Nicki, with a voice that gave an entire audience goose bumps, and who can harmonise along with the best of them. Manasseh Mapira, as Rachel’s young son Fletcher, is incredible, putting in an accomplished, nuanced performance while Emmerdale and Hollyoaks star Ayden Callaghan mirror’s Costner’s buttoned-up bodyguard Farmer, who’s battling not to fall in love with his client.

Fans of the 1992 film know the story inside out, plot holes and all (if he’s the best bodyguard there is, why is a knife-wilding stalker able to get so close all the time?) but there are subtle changes to the plot to keep it from becoming predictable.

The stage production is slick, with flames, dry ice, gunshots, laser beams, lightning-speed glitzy costume changes and a spectacular slow-mo scene which I just want to watch over and over again.

The songs are so well known the audience is reminded twice beforehand not to sing along – a subtle reference perhaps to the mini-riot six months ago in Manchester where theatre goers were ejected for screeching over the cast which culminated in a brawl during the finale.

No misbehaves in Eastbourne – save for the odd sound of a sweet wrapper rustling and a united boo when Marios Nicolaides, who plays the stalker, took his stage bow – and we couldn’t wait to get on our feet to join in with the feel-good finale, I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

It was the perfect way to end the thrilling musical that will have you rifling through your 90s DVD and CD collection to watch the movie and sing along to Whitney’s best songs time and time again. A must-see.

The Bodyguard - The Musical is at the Congress Theatre, Eastbourne now until Saturday 21 October, with nightly performances at 7.30pm, Saturday Matinee 2.30pm, tickets from £28 with selected concessions available on top 3 prices, including £10 off under 16’s. Call the box office on 01323 412000 or visit


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