Alexandra Burke is queen of the night as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard
Last night (Monday 2nd June) Alexandra Burke made her west end debut in the stage adaptation of The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre in London and as the opening number extolled she certainly was the Queen of the Night. Prior to Burke’s appearance, the lead role had been occupied by Beverly Knight for 8 months who is acknowledged by many as the Queen Of UK Soul and of course The Bodyguard is synonymous with Whitney Houston who won a Grammy for her performance as Rachel Marron in the original film released over 20 years ago [YES 20 YEARS AGO!!!]. Burke had BIG BOOTS to fill.
For those who are unaware, the stage adaption is in some ways a tribute to the late Houston as unlike the film, the score features a number of songs made famous by the singer independently of the movie e.g. Saving All My Love and So Emotional. It’s seems then almost serendipitous when you consider that Burke is in the position she is now, due to breaking the unwritten XFactor rule to ‘never attempt to cover Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey or Beyoncé - how could you possibly compete?’ and triumphed.
Burke was bound to be under scrutiny from those cynical about anyone who finds fame off the back of a TV talent show but it can be safely said that her performance will have quietened the critics. We all know the ‘gurl can sang’ but can she act? YES. I often find accents in theatre productions rather hammy but Alexandra had her gentle American drawl down and coupled with a natural huskiness she was reminiscent of Houston herself.
I felt proud to see two women of colour, performing to a packed out, diverse auditorium – but within me was a pang of sadness that these women don’t have the outside profile they deserve
The storyline has been adapted to suit the theatre and introduced additional songs and at this point I must give a mention to Carole Stennett who almost stole the show as the poor suffering sister, Nicki Marron. Her voice on numbers such as I Have Nothing totally transported me and I felt honoured watching Burke and Stennett duet on tracks like Run To You. I also felt proud to see two women of colour, performing to a packed out, diverse auditorium – but within me was a pang of sadness that these women (particularly Burke who’s pop chart success is only a fraction of what it should be) don’t have the outside profile they deserve. Another mention must go to Jhayheim Davis who as Rachel Marron’s 10 year old son showcased a voice which was rich and soulful for such a young actor – he could have passed for American, such was the accuracy of his accent.
The song that everyone remembers when thinking of The Bodyguard is of course I Will Always Love You and it’s well documented that Houston’s version took on a life of its own beyond the film. It's fitting then that it was this number that would be the climax of what was an emotional, gripping, intense thriller of a show. Surely it was intimidating for Alexandra to sing a song which for some time was Whitney Houston’s signature track and vocally one of the most challenging with its gentle verses and belting choruses; however it seems that Burke was meant for this moment and the song perfectly concluded her debut performance her voice filling every crevice of the room – it was highly emotional.
For an opening night Alexandra Burke was on fire. Her performance seemed effortless yet strong, passionate and powerful, confirmed by the audience spontaneously reaching their feet as the show concluded.
Alexandra Burke will be performing as Rachel Marron for 3 months until the end of August 2014. For tickets click here.