A new stage musical based on the Whitney Houston film The Bodyguard has sparked mixed reviews in London, with critics singing the praises of its star but many unimpressed with the production itself.
Heather Headley has earned rave reviews from British critics for her lead turn as Rachel Marron, the superstar singer at the centre of The Bodyguard and the movie role in which the late Houston made memorable her acting debut.
The musical, co-starring Lloyd Owen in the titular role originated by Kevin Costner, premiered at the Adelphi Theatre in London's West End on Wednesday evening.
It revisits the love story between a former Secret Service agent and the woman he's hired to protect: a hit actress and singer who is being stalked. However, the musical adds more of Houston's real-life hits to its set list.
Headley, a Tony and Grammy-winning American actor and singer, has been dubbed "mesmerizing" (Evening Standard) and "utterly compelling" (The Stage), with a "sassy stage presence" (Daily Telegraph).
The Telegraph's Charles Spencer went so far as to say Headley's rendition of the power ballad I Will Always Love You is as good as, or perhaps even better, than that of Houston, for whom the song became a signature track. Houston died in February, at the age of 48.
Apart from the widespread acclaim for Headley, the British critics — who are somewhat known for prickly reviews — were not effusive about the musical itself.
The Bodyguard is "a sterile attempt to recapture the feel of a not very good romantic thriller and turn the West End into a distant suburb of Hollywood," wrote the Guardian's Michael Billington.
The Arts Desk noted that "all the vocal pyrotechnics and technical know-how on offer can't put right the vapidity at the core of a plot that could have been written on the back of an interval drinks order."
Others described the production as appealing shlock that nonetheless would likely find an audience.
A blend of weak dialogue, "brilliantly clever" design and strong performances, the London-born musical — directed by Thea Sharrock — is "absurd and hugely enjoyable," said the Times of London.
"It's loud, it's soupy, it is as predictable as the tides — yet it makes for a pumpy, undemanding evening," The Daily Mail declared.
"The Bodyguard is dross with a gloss, and proof that if you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you can sometimes come surprisingly close," the Telegraph's Spencer said.
The Bodyguard film, released in cinemas in 1992, also received mixed-to-negative reviews upon its debut. However, it became a box office smash and its soundtrack sold more than 45 million copies worldwide.With files from The Associated Press