Credit: Paul Coltas
Credit: Paul Coltas

Alexandra Burke, winner of The X Factor, number one selling record artist and now leading star of The Bodyguard. And guess what? She's never looked more alive on stage.

Opening the show with the incredibly up-tempo 'Queen of the Night' and proving she's so much more than 'just a singer', with brilliant choreography, charm and presence, Alexandra hooks you into the story of Rachel Marron from the second she steps out, refusing to let up until the emotional end.

Rachel is a flawed woman. As one of the world's biggest singing sensations, she has a lot of fans, but one in particular would rather bring her life to an end than celebrate it. She's being stalked and her security needs to be beefed up if she's to survive.

Credit: Paul Coltas
Credit: Paul Coltas

Step in Frank Farmer, played impeccably well by Stuart Reid. He's the moody, handsome, brooding bodyguard whose sole mission is to serve and protect without getting too attached, but his walls soon come down when he realises the family he's protecting could be ripped apart by the works of a madman.

That man is Adam Venus, playing an unhinged stalker who has all the skills needed to work his way into Rachel's circles, leaving threatening messages, stealing costumes and even at one point breaking into her luxurious mansion, all without being detected. Venus elicits gasps from the stalls whenever he appears, slinking around before a spotlight beams down on him and his weapon of choice.

Rachel - finally realising that she needs to act if she's to ensure not only she but her son and sister make it through - moves the family with Frank to a wood lodge, but even there they're under threat. A stirring and moving 'Jesus Loves Me' made me beam from ear to ear, but what came after with the continuation of the song ensured there wasn't a dry eye in the building. Alexandra's acting skills are to be applauded - she's a natural.

Credit: Paul Coltas
Credit: Paul Coltas

Melissa James who plays sister Nicki Marron in the show is a sight to behold and a treat for the ears. Her voice control is second-to-none and she can more than hold a flame to her sister who found the spotlight. You find yourself rooting for Nicki, perhaps feeling a little bit of her jealousy towards Rachel, and instantly form a bond which enables you to really become a part of the show.

Some of my favourite moments came from the production, which allowed us all to take a sharp intake of breath as scenes almost grinded to a halt, working in slow motion as the thud of a heartbeat echoed around the theatre. It was tense and exciting - exactly how it should have been.

Despite the heavy subject matter, there are moments throughout the show which had the audience roaring with laughter, such as the scene where Frank and Rachel go on their first date to a karaoke bar and both end up taking to the microphone - one of the two with better results than the other!

Credit: Paul Coltas
Credit: Paul Coltas

I've of course got to also mention the incredible catalogue of songs throughout the musical, which has now added Whitney classics such as 'Million Dollar Bill' and 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' to the collection.

Alexandra is not better than, a match for or worse than Whitney's attempt at bringing Rachel Marron to life, because really there should be no comparison. What we should ask ourselves is whether or not Alexandra has the ability to embody everything the character of Rachel is about, and the result is that she manages to do all that and more with a stellar performance from start to finish.

She has the confidence, swagger and personality to carry a show, deserving of the beautiful sliding scenery, lighting, pyrotechnics and special effects. On stage, she's surrounded by an array of talented dancers and the orchestra are perfect in creating an atmosphere.

If there's one show you'd like to see over the holiday period that isn't your typical pantomime, The Bodyguard should be high on your list of choices. Just make sure you turn up on time - the 30-50 latecomers annoyed whilst shuffling over the squeaking floors. Oh, and turn your phone off in the theatre. An iPhone trilling away just as 'I Will Always Love You' began to kick in really took away from the whole moment.

The Bodyguard runs at The Palace Theatre in Manchester until January 9.


by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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