Book: Alexander Dinelaris. Based on Warner Bros screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan.
Palace Theatre, Manchester
December 10 - January 4, 2020; 2hr 25min
Back in Manchester after four years – and not soon enough, judging by the rapturous reception offered by the Palace audience.
There were several self-identifying, fully-dressed divas in the audience - never mind the one Alexandra Burke again portrays in this musical version of the hit movie.
The evening takes the story of a pop celebrity - who needs protection after receiving threatening messages from a psychotic stalker - adds a dozen or more songs and turns it all into an action-packed, music-strewn drama.
The songs don’t so much drive the story along as punctuate the plot. Each is a tried and trusted power ballad, with enough collective energy to light up a small town. All the way from I Will Always Love You, the song whose royalties must be a major part of Dolly Parton’s pension fund, to the biggest hit for Whitney Houston (who starred in the original 1992 movie), I Wanna Dance With Somebody. The rousing encore sees the audience do just that...
Alexandra Burke has owned the role of Rachel Marron since 2014, having taken over from Beverley Knight, and her voice is more than a match for the songs. It’s no surprise though that Emmy Willow, who plays her sister Nicki, also understudies the lead role and has played it on international tours. The Marron sisters’ duet of Run To You nearly blows the roof off!
Australian musical theatre star Ben Lewis is Frank Farmer, the former secret service agent reluctantly recruited to guard the Marron family. It’s a non-singing role (unless you count his attempt in a karaoke bar here), for a performer who has headlined many musicals. The role of 10-year-old Fletcher Marron is rotated among six young players.
Tom Hatley’s clever set design, using segmented stage areas, provides moments for intimate drama, before opening out into full-on rock concert performances. Flame throwers, dry ice and other filmic effects add to the impact of the full-scale theatrical experience.