I’m pretty excited about seeing Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre tomorrow night. I know, I know - there are TV talent show winners and TV talent show winners, but I think Ms Burke has more than earned her stardom and success, don’t you?
Following in the footsteps of Whitney Houston, Heather Headley and Beverley Knight in the role of pop superstar Rachel Marron has got to be a daunting task, but I’ll take a guess that being an actual pop superstar yourself might take the edge off the nerves a bit. I'm sure Alexandra's going to knock it out of the park.
The Bodyguard is one of those West End shows that manages to be both populist and classy. Aside from its can’t-fail Whitney song score, tried-and-tested romantic thriller plot and neat trick of casting real-life singing stars in the lead, it was conceived for the stage by a very smart director, Thea Sharrock.
Giving the lie to the notion that theatre’s an elitist art form, Sharrock is generally known and respected as a director of intelligent shows that tend to be star vehicles – she’s the director of Kevin Spacey’s current sold-out one man show Clarence Darrow at the Old Vic, among many others.
I was at the launch of The Bodyguard back in 2012, where I saw this sharply intelligent, super-talented world-class director come over almost girly, as she described her obviously very real love of Whitney and the original Bodyguard movie. It was a thrill for her to bring it to the stage, she said, and it was clear that her statement wasn’t just PR.
And why shouldn't she come over a bit like an excitable teenager? I've never understood the snobby, mutually exclusive mentality that says you can't enjoy both so-called 'high' and 'low' culture equally on their own terms. For a start, judgment as to what fits in those brackets is to a large extent subjective. As far as I'm concerned, if a work's sincerely felt and executed with conviction, it's culture worth experiencing and enjoying. That’s why I take my hat off to Thea Sharrock and it's why I’m more than happy to see The Bodyguard again tomorrow with the newly arrived Alexandra in the cast.
Like other West End shows including Mamma Mia!, The Lion King and, soon, Jersey Boys, The Bodyguard’s screen / stage synergy and familiar songs don’t hurt it. But it takes a smart director to give the people what they want and make a show dramatically viable for newcomers too.