Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan
Produced by Michael Harrison and David Ian
Venue Cymru, Llandudno
June 19-24; 2 hrs 10 mins
(also at Hull New Theatre, July 10-15; Liverpool Empire September 12-16; Sheffield Lyceum October 10-14; Blackpool Winter Gardens November 6-11)
There's plenty to enjoy about this show, though it's unclear in some respects whether it's a musical or a concert...
From the dramatic opening to the show-stopping finale, there are stand-out moments; the choreography is gymnastic, the scene changes slick and of course there's the expected selection of songs, many from the catalogue of the late Whitney Houston.
The storyline too – how to protect a famous person from unwanted attention – is also relevant to today's celebrity-obsessed culture. We love to put people in the limelight and the price they pay for fame is to have little or no personal life or ability to do the day-to-day things the rest of us take for granted, like going to a bar without public or paparazzi intrusion.
In this case the attention comes from an obsessive, potential killer. Add personal rivalry between sisters and some tension between bodyguards and management team and the plot is complete.
The stand-out feature of the show is the succession of power ballads, mostly sung by Grammy-nominated Pussycat Doll Melody Thornton as Rachel, the "star". The film on which the play is based was a vehicle for the vocal talent of Whitney Houston, so playing the lead in this show is always going to be a tough job. Apart from her opening number, which appeared a little shouty, Thornton's singing is excellent; her final song - of course it's I Will Always Love You, the song that made Houston a star – will live long in the memory.
My problem with the show is the storyline. Bodyguard Frank Farmer (Ayden Callaghan, previously seen in TV's Emmerdale and Hollyoaks) is hired to protect a singer, and while on duty begins an affair with her, her son is kidnapped, her sister killed and he is shot protecting her from a stalker at the Academy Awards ceremony – which you might think would have rather better security than to allow that to happen. Surprisingly, he still manages to get another job...
In many respects though, the plot is irrelevant. This is a glittery, glamorous musical with plenty of energy. The audience appreciates a beautifully-delivered succession of memorable songs and regardless of whether it is concert or theatre, it's live music – always worth listening to, and a reminder of what we lost with Houston's death.
NB: Melody Thornton sings only at evening performances
More info and tickets here