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Review: The Bodyguard at the Liverpool Empire

Comedy, tragedy and some of the greatest songs of all time

Stuart Reid as Frank Farmer and Alexandra Burke as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard(Image: Uli Weber)

Liverpool has been at the centre of everyone's minds this week as the 96 victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster are vindicated after 26 years of campaigning by their families.

So arriving at the Liverpool Empire for a regular press night was like stepping aboard an emotional rollercoaster before even reaching the door of the theatre.

Exiting Lime Street station on a cold sunny evening, we were overwhelmed by the crowds outside St George's Hall at the Hillsborough memorial singing You'll Never Walk Alone led by Sense of Sound choir. None of the 96 sought fame - they were ordinary people enjoying a football match to support their favourite team - but their names are known across the UK thanks to decades of searching for the truth.

Taking our seats, I wonder how I will concentrate on the tale of an Oscar-nominated diva whose psychopathic stalker is out to get her.

Bang! We are galvanised into action with a gunshot which shocks the entire audience.

X-Factor winner and three-times BRIT nominee Alexandra Burke is superstar Rachel Marron and the opening number All At Once is staged like any talent show final with flashing lights, muscle-bound dancers strutting their stuff and the obligatory pyrotechnic display.

Alexandra Burke as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard(Image: Paul Coltas)

A little tentative to begin with, Burke soon takes ownership of the part and I stop comparing her to Whitney Houston in the 1992 film.

Her first duet with sister Nicki (Rachel John) is fantastic and by the time she takes the mic at a karaoke bar on the ill-fated date with bodyguard Frank Farmer (Stuart Reid) I have relaxed.

Alexandra Burke (Image: Paul Coltas)

But this show is not just about the star. Max Fincham is a singing, dancing ball of energy as Rachel's son Fletcher, Rachel John has a fabulous voice and could easily be lined up to take over from Burke when she moves to pastures new and Matthew Stathers as the stalker is terrifying! When he scours the audience with the red-spotted sight of his gun, I am ready to run.

Tim Hatley's set is brilliant, giving depth and opulence to the star's mansion and cleverly using simple theatrical techniques to portray the intricacies of life in ever decreasing circles (or squares).

The finale is phenomenal and Burke rises to great heights with I Will Always Love You but the sisters and young Fletcher singing Jesus Loves Me by a log cabin fireside is just as powerful in its own way and serves as a gentle reminder that gospel singing is where many a great talent is born.

Uplifted by a show which has comedy, tragedy and some of the greatest songs of all time, we leave the theatre in the pouring rain, and stop for a moment to reflect on 96 candles which are still burning bright.

What a night.

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