I wanted to review this production because I was intrigued to see a blockbuster movie translated to a stage in Cardiff as I couldn’t quite imagine it.
The show gets off to an explosive start with our lead character – diminutive superstar Rachel Marron (former Pussycat Doll, Melody Thornton) – on stage belting out a montage of Whitney’s biggest hits and sets the scene for a production full of big voices and big hits that doesn’t disappoint.
The storyline is kept mercifully simple and true to the original film, which I always prefer, and the production is peppered with certain key scenes and memorable dialogue extracts from the film. I really liked the staging – I wasn’t sure how they would convey the opulence of a Hollywood mansion on stage, but it was done subtly and effectively, giving a suggestion of luxury without the need for complex sets. Personally I felt that the lead character’s casual-wear costumes weren’t reflective of what a wealthy superstar would wear – yes it would be casual, but made of luxury fabrics and flattering to her stature rather than the slightly unflattering, asymmetric cardigan reminiscent of ‘lockdown wear’! Frank Farmer (Ayden Callaghan) however, was perfectly attired for the part and his gentle swagger and body language reflected the quiet confidence of the Kevin Costner character well. I have to mention the final scene of the first half. Rachel and Frank are on a date – a scene which brings a bit of humour and realism to the Hollywood bubble, and I thought the staging and lighting for this scene was inspired. As the couple’s relationship moves from animosity to romance – the gritty bar and tipsy onlookers melt away and we are transported with the couple to an evocative, starry wonderland – perfect!
At the interval, both my friend and I agreed that we thought Emily-Mae (playing the sister – Nikki Marron) actually had a voice more suited to Whitney classics than Melody Thornton, who I felt had a more ‘musical theatre’ voice (I didn’t know until after the show, that she had been a pop star in her own right). Emily-Mae’s vocals were very strong and she was very convincing as the talented, overlooked sister living under the shadow of her sister’s fame. In fairness to Melody Thomas, both my friend and I agreed at the end that she had been stronger in the second half and totally nailed the final song – the one that really counts in this production – and lets be honest – anyone that can carry off a Whitney classic has an exceptional range and great vocal control! Judging by their reaction, the rest of the audience certainly agreed.
All in all I really enjoyed the show. For those people (like me) that have some difficulty in relaxing at musical theatre this is the perfect production – part pop-concert, part-play with songs that most people will recognise and are integral to the story. Strong song and dance routines, a humorous interlude, convincing romance and heartbreak and even a heart-stopping surprise, give this production all the ingredients an audience might want for a good night out.