A strong vocal lead carried the legacy made by Whitney Houston in the 1990s hit film. The Bodyguard is at the Winter Gardens Opera House until Saturday.

For those of a certain age mention The Bodyguard and their mind will wander back to the early 1990s Warner Brothers romantic thriller, and in particular Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You that featured on the soundtrack and spent ten weeks at number one.

Since 2012 there has also been a stage musical, and a large audience was in the Winter Gardens Opera House on a damp November Monday evening for the opening night of the current run in Blackpool. They were treated to a polished and engaging feel-good performance with several standout musical highlights.

The programme gave details of the rather convoluted history of The Bodyguard. It was rejected as a movie script no fewer than 67 times over a 14 year period, and there were a dozen significant re-writes before it finally made it into production. The scene towards the end at the 68th Academy Awards is an in-joke reference to the number of script rejections. It was written with Steve McQueen and Barbara Streisand in mind as leads, others in the frame even included Michael Jackson and Madonna before the final casting of Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner.

Impressive visual effects drew the audience in but in a musical consisting largely of female solos the night was going to hinge on its key vocalist Emily Williams.

Emily Williams made her name in Australian Idol

Without giving too much away things got off to a loud and dramatic start, which was also the case when things resumed after the interval. Impressive visual effects drew the audience in but in a musical consisting largely of female solos the night was going to hinge on its key vocalist Emily Williams. Suffice it to say that having come up through the Australian Idol talent show route Williams has the vocal talents and range to carry this burden successfully as lead Rachel Marron. She receives strong support from Emily-Mae who performs several songs as Rachel’s sister Nicki. Many of the numbers will be well known to most, including pop anthems such as I’m Every Woman, One Moment In Time and Saving All My Love. In all, seven of them have featured in the UK Top 20 over the years.

The male characters naturally play second fiddle to the female ones given their only singing parts are either brief or ironic, or both. Ayden Callaghan has experience in Emmerdale and Hollyoaks as well as theatre and gives an accomplished performance as the professional bodyguard Frank Farmer. The role of Rachel’s son Fletcher was performed with confidence by Ryo Appadu, who shares the role with three other young actors. The performance is supported by a live orchestra under the supervision of musical director Sam Hall, they did an excellent job of all the well-known songs. The effects and props are bold and attention grabbing, particularly as might be expected for the more up-tempo musical pieces.

Before the performance started the audience was asked to avoid opening noisy sweet wrappers, and under no circumstances to sing along during the main performance. This almost came across as lecturing but then I was reminded by my guest that it was a performance of The Bodyguard in Manchester earlier in the year where members of the audience were ejected for rowdy singing that spoiled things for other theatregoers. Personally. I was pleased that the ground rules were clearly set out – respect the performance and let your hair down with the cast in the encore. The standing ovation and number of people dancing in the aisles at the end suggested that overall the balance between performance and feel-good night out was on the mark.

The Bodyguard is showing nightly between now and Saturday at 7.30pm, with an additional matinee performance at 2.30pm on the last day. Prices for all performances start from £23.50. Tickets here.

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