Right: Kip Gamblin, Paulini and Prinnie Stevens
The Bodyguard the Musical
Book by Alexander Dinelaris
Directed by Thea Sharrock
Choreographer Karen Bruce
John Frost, Michael Harrison, and David Ian production
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: July 22-August 13. Running time: two hours 20 minutes including interval. Bookings: www.qpac.com.au/event/the_bodyguard_17 or 07 384 7444.
At the opening night performance the captivated audience cheered and leapt to its feet with rapturous applause for the cast of the musical as it swung into a huge, vital, and exciting finale with I Wanna Dance With Somebody. There was no doubt the audience loved the show. And there was good reason for the massed fans of Whitney Houston; they had been treated to songs from the top-selling soundtrack of the movie on which the show is based, sung by the powerful voiced Paulini Curuenavuli.
The setting as slick and clever and many scenes were cinematic as the focus came into close-ups, and the dance routines were as fast and furious as the music.
The opening number Queen of the Night, was screamingly loud with flashing lights, dazzling lasers and booming gas jets and I sat with foreboding, but soon realised that the “concert” numbers would be rock star loud, but the rest were sung with a decent decibel level. So there was no chance of temporary deafness.
The plot is a highly abridged version of the movie where pop star Rachel Marron (Curuenavuli ) is being stalked by a psycho, and former special agent turned bodyguard Frank Farmer (Kip Gamblin) is talked into being her protector. Rachel doesn’t want to be hamstrung by the upstart bodyguard and the two have some fiery clashes.
But, after what I thought was the best scene in the show where they sneak unknown and incognito to a karaoke bar and Frank does a beautiful off-key vocal, they fall into lust and Frank ends up in her bed for the one and only time.
To escape the maniac stalker Frank takes Rachel, her son Fletcher, and disgruntled sister Nicki, nicely played by Prinnie Stevens, away to an isolated cabin in the woods where Frank feels they will be safe, but they are tracked down by the stalker. Then the final showdown happens at the Oscars where Rachel is hopeful of an award for her hit movie.
Paulini scores with songs like Every Woman with its feisty Latin dance scene and power ballads like I Have Nothing, and the finale I Will Always Love You.
So much for the Whitney Houston fans.
As I am neither a Whitney Houston fan; nor a fan of the Paulini style of singing I was not cheering along with the others. In fact, with 16 songs plus reprises scattered through the two hours of the production there as not much for a non-fan left to enjoy.
This is no reflection on Paulini or the cast, which was excellent and well drilled in the American accent. Paulini has a strong voice with a huge range, and singing and acting (which she did well) in a vehicle that was created for a international super star, was a courageous thing to do. However her type of vocal gymnastics has never appealed me even in the soulful days of Aretha Franklin. I guess it is just a matter of musical taste.
I also thought that from a stage musical point of view that it was unbalanced with no male voices to counter the Whitney Houston tributes, which often added some lightness to a dark story. And the songs were not plot enhancers.
So, if you love Whitney and soul singing this is for you, if not…