We will always love Whitney Houston, and after seeing the new touring production of The Bodyguard you may just want to dance with somebody. Houston, of course, starred in the 1992 hit movie which spawned and even bigger hit with the soundtrack album, and now the story and the music come to life on stage with Grammy nominee and multi-platinum recording artist Deborah Cox in the role of Rachel Marron.
If you’re unfamiliar with the movie (and full disclosure, I’ve never seen it), Rachel Marron is a recording artist up for her first Oscar, staging concerts while trying to campaign for that award. Her manager finds a threatening letter in her dressing room and hires Frank Farmer as her bodyguard, without telling Rachel why. Reluctant at first, Frank comes on board to protect Rachel, her son Fletcher and her sister Nicki. After a surprise club appearance nearly ends in disaster, Frank and Rachel develop a romantic relationship that he has to break off when her stalker becomes more dangerous. Frank take the family to his cabin in the woods, but will he be able to keep them safe even there?
I have to say I enjoyed the second act of The Bodyguard more than the first as the story take a very dark turn and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The first act’s dialog is a bit too basic, but the cast does what they can to not make it sound too amateurish. Perhaps the problem with the dialog is that the show, besides being an adaptation of the film, is also a love letter to Whitney Houston. Not only does it have the songs from the movie soundtrack — “I Have Nothing”, “I’m Every Woman”, “Run to You”, “Queen of the Night” and, of course, “I Will Always Love You” — but it also have a whole catalog of Houston’s hits that the plot has to work around. If you love Whitney Houston, you will love hearing songs like “How Will I Know”, “One Moment In Time”, “Saving All My Love For You” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”.
While the suspense and the romance may grab you, there’s no denying that Deborah Cox can belt out these songs with the greatest of ease, always reminding us of Whitney but still making them her own. She also takes a character who is really unlikable at first much softer as she falls for Frank and then needs to put all of her faith in his hands to keep her and her family safe. But man can she sing (and if you’ve ever heard the hit song “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here” you already know that).
Judson Mills also gives a good performance as Frank. He has a really hard job needing to remain fairly flat since he’s supposed to be pretty emotionless while he’s working. Some may criticize his work because of that, but he’s actually doing his job and the moments when he lets his guard down, like in the karaoke bar, lets us see a lighter side of the guy. Douglas Baldeo, who plays Fletcher, is a fine actor but this kid has some pipes. He gets to join in on a few songs here and there and he amazes every time he opens his mouth.
Jasmin Richardson is outstanding as Nicki, and for fans of the movie, the show has completely altered her character to very jealous of her sister but not enough to put a hit out on her. When Nicki sneaks off to sing in a little dive bar, Frank follows and is surprised to see that no one else from the family is there to support her. Unfortunately, Nicki takes Frank’s concern as a sign of romance and gets a bit upset when she finds out he and Rachel are sleeping together, revealing the secret at a recording session with a great line. Nicki is actually a more complex character because she has to deal with being in her sister’s shadow, and the show affords Richardson several opportunities to sing. And can she sing. Close your eyes and it’s Whitney. She is simply amazing and when she and Cox sing together, it’s a wonder the stage just doesn’t ignite from all that power and talent. And Richardson also takes on the Rachel role during Cox’s off days, so while you may initially feel disappointed by not seeing Cox perform, you really won’t be disappointed at all after Richardson starts singing.
The show’s production and lighting design is interesting, with sliding panels and sets that range from a large rehearsal space to a child’s bedroom to a cabin in the woods to the Oscars. There are also some very cool things done with video projections. Ms. Cox’s performance costumes are also eye-popping, and when she makes a quick change into a sequined gown for the show’s final number, your breath will be taken away. And then she changes again to get the audience on their feet after the curtain call for a sing-along to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”. So be sure to not run out while the cast is taking their bows!
Overall, while I didn’t think the script was very strong, the show is about Miss Cox, Whitney Houston and all of that glorious music. I can forgive some clunky dialog when everything else adds up to pure entertainment.
The Bodyguard: The Musical is currently at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre through March 5. Over the course of the year, the show will stops in cities including New Orleans, Tucson, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, San Antonio and more.
The Bodyguard: The Musical runs about 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.
You can find the tour dates on the show’s website, or check our Ticketmaster link for ticket availability in your city.