REVIEW: The Bodyguard New Theatre Oxford Until November 21

IF indeed there is a heaven, and if the late, great Whitney Houston made it up there, I reckon she’d be looking down on Alexandra Burke reprising the role she made famous back in 1992 with that wide smile of hers, saying ‘girlfriend, you got it ALL goin’ on’.

In a show which hinges almost entirely on the vocal ability of the lead player, former X Factor winner Alexandra has nowhere to hide, but the 27-year-old diva-in-the-making never falters; in her note-perfect belting of the big numbers, in her soulful renditions of the ballads, or even in her plausible US accent.

I can’t ever remember seeing a performance quite like it - one which makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and brings tears to your eyes all at once. Except from Miss Houston herself, perhaps.

Alexandra plays Rachel Marron, an American singing star with an ego to match her fame, but also with a stalker intent on seeing her off. In the movie Kevin Costner played the eponymous bodyguard who is hired to protect her and her family, but in this stage adaptation that role is taken by Stuart Reid, a far better-looking and charismatic performer. It’s not hard to see why Rachel falls for his brooding darkness, that hint of the troubled soul, but it’s just as obvious it’s never going to end well.

There are some clever storytelling devices, like a giant mesh screen relaying video excerpts over the live action, and a sliding set which narrows the focus from the whole stage to just the most relevant section. And if I’m being picky, the story could do with some fleshing out - the love affair between the two leads doesn’t really develop as much as appear overnight, and the repercussions of the rivalry between Marron and her sister are never fully explored.

But frankly the plot and the sets, and even the dialogue to an extent, are incidental. This production is all about the vocals - almost exclusively Alexandra’s vocals - and little else gets a look in.

I’m sure dear departed Whitney would approve. MICHELLE TOMPKINS