Yesterday, I took my parents out to see “The Bodyguard” musical. My mum loved it, my dad suffered it, my husband continues to grumble and I was entertained.
Spoilers ahoy for “The Bodyguard” film and, to a lesser extent, the musical – if you haven’t seen the film, why not?! Go! Watch!
Done? Good. Now I’ll begin.
First off, I love “The Bodyguard”. My mum bought it for me as my first 15-rated DVD for my 15th birthday. I’ve used it with script editors to discuss the plots of mysteries I’ve been writing, as it uses some classic diversionary tactics.
The musical is, obviously, more musical than the film. There are many more songs. Because they are shoe-horned in to make a film into a musical, they are largely superfluous to the plot. I love the musical format, but I feel musicals that are not full libretto should have songs which enhance and serve the plot. Extraneous scenes are not useful in either musicals or films.
“The Bodyguard” musical goes one step further – it amputates elements of the plot to make time for more songs. Of course, any adaptation takes liberties with the source format. That is the process of adaptation. Musicals need more songs, therefore something has to give to stop it turning into a four-hour dragfest.
But because murder does not lend itself to musical theatre (though Sweeney Todd would argue otherwise), the musical emphasises the love interest angle between Frank and Nicki. To the tune of three or four songs. And the cost? Nicki’s character loses the most interesting thing about her: her role in the hit on Rachel.
To recap: in the film, there is a disturbed stalker who sends letters – and is a decoy. The real threat is a hitman, also a bodyguard, who is hired by Nicki in a fit of drunken jealousy. He also hits on Rachel in Miami, from which she narrowly escapes, and stirs all of Frank’s jealousy.
In the musical, the stalker is the villain. The “twist” is that he is ex-military and that Nicki once replied to one of his emails, which may have encouraged him. The whole fiasco in Miami is glossed over in one song. The bodyguard rival character does not exist. (Also, perhaps less noticeable if he were not my favourite character, the smartarse driver Henry).
By losing the twist elements, the plot is thin and predictable. The motivations of the “villain” lose coherance, with the Feeb characters desperately trying to exposit why he’s behaving so bizarrely. The spectacle of the musical loses its shine because it’s backed up by a whole lot of nothing between songs.
Without solid logical plot, you can spend as much money as you like on actors, locations, CGI and your film/TV show/musical will be pretty but lacking in substance. It won’t stick in the mind of the audience and it won’t make it onto their DVD shelves.
In the land of the blockbuster, story is still king.