(Seen at the afternoon performance on 17th December 2016). Some actors
have now left the cast.
monkey had waited years for this. Since 1981, in fact. It's never seen the film,
never heard more than two of the big songs... and was a ready-made fan of Amber
Riley (Ellie White), Lily Frazer (Michelle Morris) and Durone Stokes (Ensemble)
before the curtain went up; so expectations were high...
... sadly, time has
passed. The stories of Black entertainers' struggles have been better and more
recently catalogued in the fabulous "Memphis" and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" to
name but two, and (at the time the monkey saw this), "The Bodyguard" sets the highest bar for true
achievement in that field. By comparison, "Dreamgirls" sung-through sub-"Evita"
styling and simplistic "In / Out / Back Better Than Ever" book seems both dated
and even laughably trite at times. You could lose an entire hour of the show and
still get the story over, in fact.
Still, the songs are reasonable, though
there is a reason two have become standards - there isn't another "classic" to
be had in the show.
Two howlers aside, it's nicely, and a little
minimalistically, staged, too. Tim Hatley inexplicably fails to disguise modern
lighting in a set that makes a feature of being "period." Choreographer Casey
Nicholow also drops a major clanger early on, having dancers fake playing
instruments in a visually horrible routine. Still, once past this, and Richard
Brooker's noisy (bring ear-plugs) but balanced sound design, the whole is
Ms Riley delivers the songs as expected, but without
particularly "Beverley Knight" impact. Her acting too, is adequate but the
facile script limits out emotional involvement with her cause. Performances
truly worthy of note are Liisi LaFontaine (Deena Jones) whose voice has a
beautiful soft edge, Tyrone Huntley (C.C. White) whose acting has a soft heart
and Joe Aaron Reid (Curtis Taylor Jr) who measures his key role perfectly so as
not to disturb the emotional curve of the whole show.
Both Ms Frazer and Mr
Stokes do nicely in their smaller ensemble roles, and there's a lot to be said
for the well-drilled team around them. If only the show had reached London so
much earlier, the monkey is certain it would have been far more enthusiastic
than a tepid "3 star" verdict. As it stands, for young people (like the idiotic
whooper sitting in the row behind) who loved the film and have nothing to
compare it with, it'll no doubt satisfy. For those who love musical theatre, and
have long memories, this is alas more diversion than destination, as time has
built longer roads.