The Bodyguard musical was interrupted by rioting audience members trying to sing I Will Always Love You over the actors.
The finale of the musical at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, was abandoned on Friday night after security guards stormed the auditorium and "forcibly removed" fans who were loudly singing along.
The ex-Pussycat Dolls star Melody Thornton, who plays the lead role of a superstar who is protected from an unknown stalker, was forced to apologise to theatre-goers, insisting she "fought really hard" to keep the curtain up before riot police were called.
I’m new to the world of theatre. But sad and disappointed tonight at the state of some peoples arrogance and disrespect while at a show.
Completely ruined #TheBodyguard, singing over the actors, to the point of them cancelling the show & police being called 🤦♂️😢 #Manchester pic.twitter.com/6pacRPKdqs
— Karl Bradley (@KarlBradley_1) April 7, 2023
The saga began at the start of the musical, when stewards held signs asking people to "please refrain from singing along" and two announcements were made saying "please don't sing".
'Audible gasps' as 'chaos begins'
Twenty minutes in, the stage adaptation of the 1992 film was halted because some had ignored the edict, according to an audience member who was present, before they were removed and the show carried on.
But as the finale approached, two spectators in the higher tier began a countdown then "started to project themselves" to a rendition of I Will Always Love You, while attempting to hit the high notes.
"And that's when the chaos began," Karl Bradley, who was watching, told BBC Radio Manchester, with videos showing women being dragged out and others reporting how "mini riots" and "fights" ensued.
Mr Bradley said Thornton's microphone cut off while she continued to battle to be heard and "eventually the lights cut off as the drama unfolded" just before 10pm amid "audible gasps" from other audience members.
Riot police called
Tash Kenyon, 27, a payroll clerk from the Wirral, told The Telegraph: "The show had about 10 minutes left when the lead started performing 'I will always love you'. Someone shouted 'Does this mean we can start singing now?' That's when the singing started over the top of the lead's vocals.
"I could hear the commotion from the second tier of seats and people were looking up shocked. I'm pretty sure some women were being forcibly removed."
She left before the show was cancelled amid the chaos, but "there was already a police van outside, then two more showed up", she said, adding it "very nearly hit" her and her mother Jan Kenyon, who was celebrating her 65th birthday at the show.
A spokesman for The Palace Theatre said "the show needed to be cancelled due to disruptive customers refusing to stay seated and spoiling the performance for others".
Lead actor apologises
The theatre thanked its security staff for "dealing with these difficult circumstances in a professional and calm way" and asked that "customers are considerate" during "future performances [which] will continue as planned".
Speaking in a video on Instagram, Thornton told fans: "For everything that happened tonight, I don't have all of the details, I just am very, very sorry that we couldn't finish the show. I fought really hard. It feels awful, and I just hope that we see you again."
Thornton plays Rachel Marron in the touring theatre production, which follows Secret Service agent-turned-bodyguard Frank Farmer as he is hired to protect superstar Rachel from an unknown stalker.
Greater Manchester Police said: "Officers were called to the Palace Theatre last night (April 7 2023) after staff reported a number of people in the audience causing a disturbance.
"Two people removed by security staff were spoken to by police and a decision about any further action will be made once the evidence has been reviewed."