FROM the sudden blackout and gun shot which starts the show, and startles the audience, to the built in encore when the entire company reappear demanding that the audience rise to their feet and join them in I Wanna Dance With Somebody this show delivers to what has now become a cult following audience everything it promised on the tin.
That includes a string of songs from at least fifteen different composers including Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You which like most of the numbers on view are because of the 1992 film in which this show is based forever associated with the late Whitney Houston.
The fact that Alexander Dinelaris , who wrote the book for this show, moves the focus of the story even more on to the character of star vocalist Rachel Marron and away from her bodyguard Frank Farmer placed a tremendous responsibility on Alexandra Burke to deliver those songs with the passion and verve of a Whitney Houston. With the aid of some outstanding staging and a state of the arc lighting plot, there were times when as big personality as Alexandra Burke threatened to be overpowered by the mixture of flamboyant costumes, and lighting. The opening number actually produced a blast of heat that could be felt at the rear of the stalls, I wonder what health and safety made of that.
When you looked past all the smoke and mirrors of the production the choreography was more terrific energy and drive than originality, but with that quality of backing and a big, brash sound from the Orchestra the vocals had all the support they needed.
With no music to help, excepting that wonderfully deliberately bad attempt at karaoke, and the character pushed more into the background Benoit Marechal as the bodyguard Frank Farmer had to work extra hard to fill in the gaps left in the story. Taking his cue from Kevin Costner, who played Frank in the film, Benoit took the risk of following in the footsteps of Steve McQueen, who was originally scheduled for the role, and played him in a flat understated manner. It paid off not only in his love scenes with Rachel but also in the relationship with Ethan Marsh as Fletcher Rachels young son.
Ethan was also involved in a lovely trio, Jesus Loves Me, with Rachel and Micha Richardson as her tragic sister Nicki, oh how I wish we had been able to see and hear more of this talented player. According to the programme Bebe Winans and Cedric Coldwell were responsible for this song, but it sounded awfully like William Batchelder Bradley’s 1859 setting of Anna B Warner’s words.
I was not quite sure of the wisdom of making the Stalker a bodybuilding hulk rather than a brooding psychopath, but Phil Atkinson along with a good set of supporting players held their own in a production which concentrated on the musical side of the story and had the vocal talent and production skills to make that work.