It is one of those shows you will look back on, and say “I was there” - and there are only a matter of days remaining to catch it. It is The Bodyguard, and it triumphantly ends its national tour at the Congress Theatre.
The show returns to the West End shortly, with Beverley Knight back in the lead, but Alexandra Burke will have left her own indelible mark on the Rachel Marron role. At a relatively young 28, Alexandra is confoundingly, breathtakingly good. Not simply the golden voice that propelled her to X Factor success, but a commanding stage presence and an acting performance literally beyond her years.
Actually, some have wryly observed that Ms Burke looks only just old enough to have the 10-year-old son - a winning and engaging Max Fincham - required by the plot. But her controlled, mature interpretation blows away the doubts. Rachel Marron, a diva of a singer threatened by a sinister stalker, is a woman of high and lows, contradictions, sensitivity as well as strength. Alexandra is absolutely in her skin.
Indeed, it is the acting that makes this show. As well as the glorious vocals; the fabulous dazzling effects; the fresh and feisty ensemble movement: at the heart of this show is a story, played out with nuanced and credible performances. Opposite Burke, Stuart Reid’s Frank is controlled, intelligent, slightly understated, and the two of them play it almost like a Taylor and Burton. Brilliant.
An assured supporting cast is superbly led by Rachel John as Nicki, the slightly rougher-diamond sister with her own issues. Her voice pounds with emotion and her Run To You duet with Alexandra is a glorious highlight.
Those who have seen the 1992 movie will know what to expect from the action. It opens explosively and develops grippingly. Back projections enhance the atmosphere of menace, and Matthew Stathers is a Stalker sinister enough to have you glancing over your shoulder on your walk back to the car park. If there is a reservation - and I mustn’t betray the plot for Bodyguard novices - then the Oscars ceremony seems a slight anti-climax.
As for the music: wow. The band did sound a tiny bit bass-heavy in one or two of the big numbers but heck, this is not a score for half-measures. And they support the quieter songs with a perfect kind of reverence.
Alexandra has the whole range, from whisper to belt and back again, and she has power to pin you to your seat, and yet she teases out every phrase, every note, every cadence. Her torch-song finale has the whole audience on their feet. This is a triumph.
Wherever Alexandra Burke’s career takes her - and she is surely destined to stay at the very summit - this has been a milestone. Not just a grand night out, like some firework display that briefly dazzles and is gone. This performance will stay imprinted in your memory. The Bodyguard continues at the Congress only until Saturday 18th June: catch it, or live with your regrets. By Kevin Anderson.
Tickets from £26 - £46.50. Book online at www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk or call Box Office on 01323 412000.