Photos – Jeff Busby
Thrilling, surprising and cheeky at times – these are just a few ways to describe The Bodyguard – The Musical, which opened on Saturday night at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre to an excitable crowd.
There is no opening of the curtains. Instead, the show explodes into a fiery Rachel Marron (Paulini Curuenavuli) concert, where the award-winning pop sensation delights both fictional and real crowds alike.
With a very real chance of winning her first Oscar, Marron is busy preparing new songs, live appearances and media strategy. Her team is helping as best they can, including hiding threatening letters from a mysterious stalker (Brendan Irving). But when the threats become too real to ignore, manager Bill (Patrick Williams) hires Frank Farmer (Kip Gamblin), an absolutely no-nonsense bodyguard.
Farmer’s strategies appear over-protective. Marron is annoyed, as are talent agent Sy (Andrew Hazzard) and existing security Tony (Damien Bermingham). But as she survives a few close calls, involving her sister Nicki (Prinnie Stevens) and her son Fletcher (Rome Champion, Joshua Scott and Tyrese Medina), Marron realises that she needs Farmer. An interlude in a karaoke bar is a clever deviation from the original story and serves both to bring Marron and Farmer closer together and as a catalyst for the stalker to up his ante.
Curuenavuli’s Queen Bey-like command of the stage has hearts racing from the start. But she is equally compelling when switching to her softer, more vulnerable side. Curuenavuli will, undoubtedly, be compared to Whitney Houston, but the Fijian-born star, whom most may know from Australian Idol days and consequent successes, holds her own with her five-octave range and believable acting skills. (Incidentally, both Houston and Curuenavuli made their movie- and stage-acting debuts respectively with The Bodyguard.)
One would be mistaken to think that this is just an extended playlist of Whitney Houston songs. Each performance is interlaced carefully with the story to ensure the plot moves along without us missing any of the iconic songs that made The Bodyguard album one of the best-selling albums of all time. Showpiece I Will Always Love You in particular is first presented in an original way that will surprise and delight, while dance anthem I Wanna Dance With Somebody will have audiences leaving with a song in their step and a beat in their heart.
I did cringe slightly at some attempts at the American accent – not that I could do better – which made some scenes a little stilted. However, The Bodyguard – The Musical is sure to be a great night out for anyone.
When the world’s second-highest grossing movie in its year of release is translated to stage, there are sky-high expectations for everyone involved. Director Thea Sharrock and her team have met the challenge. They excellently brought Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay to life, with the Australian cast shining in the opening night performance at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre.
The Bodyguard – The Musical is running until 13 August in Brisbane before moving to Melbourne for a limited season. Don’t miss it.
Presented in Australia by Michael Harrison, David Ian and John Frost
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Dates: from 19 July 2017
Tickets: from $69.90
Bookings: qpac.com.au | 136 246