"Makes you go left, right, up, down
Got you spinning round and round"
For the longest time, Beverley Knight was most notable to me for being on the radio when Rachel from Cold Feet died (and also having this old-school jam which was a favourite of mine and my big sister way back when). So when it was announced that she would be taking over the role of Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard in the show's original West End run, I have to say I was sceptical and having already seen the show, felt little need to return.
But I saw Knight do very good work in Memphis and felt suitably admonished and as the fates would have it, she has returned to the role of Marron for The Bodyguard's return to the West End at the Dominion. And I'm mightily glad that she has, for it really is a stonking performance from her and a role that suits her to the ground - belting out classic Whitney hits in peerless style and camping up the thinness of the drama with an almighty amount of sass.
I did actually end up going back to the West End show, along with a friend or two and a drink or three, so it was fun to be reminded of aspects of the show that were perhaps a little hazy. And for all that it is occasionally quite daft, it is also a huge amount of fun to watch. Thea Sharrock's slimmed-down production has learned things on its UK tour and now feels more concentrated, more punchy, Karen Bruce's choreography excelling at delivering glorious visuals.
Knight's powerful vocal is well-exercised but crucially doesn't indulge in too much self-indulgent riffing which was Alexandra Burke's major crime, and the fact that she's a little older adds heft to the story - she's not just a diva but a believable mother and a flirtatious woman too (her 'karaoke' scene is fantastic). Against her, Ben Richards does everything he's supposed to in the thankless role of Frank - looking good in a suit, looking good in bed, and sending himself up on the mike.
Once again, it's Nicki Marron, Rachel's sister, who comes close to stealing the show whether soaring through 'Saving All My Love For You' or nailing the show's funniest moment with her jealous response to 'what's got into her'. And it feels nice that it is Rachel John, Knight's original alternate on Memphis, playing this role, a neat example of circularity in the West End. So a welcome return to The Bodyguard, an entirely enjoyable night out and the affirmation - if needed - of Beverley Knight as a bona fide musical theatre star.
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Alessandro Pina
Booking until 7th January