Written by | Ray Cornelius
I had the pleasure of attending “The Bodyguard the Musical” Wednesday night at Atlanta’s Fabulous Fox Theater and I must say this is a show for “die-hard” Whitney Houston fans. The 120-minute spectacle is musical tapestry of hit after glorious hit and a befitting tribute to Houston’s legacy as a pop music phenom. The film, whether you were a fan or not, made an international movie star out of the Newark, New Jersey singer and spawned the biggest selling single by a woman in human history, “I Will Always Love You.”
Much like the 1992 film, the musical follows the life of internationally known pop star and actress, Rachel Marron, whose management hires a handsome bodyguard, Frank Farmer, to protect her from an unknown stalker. Marron and Farmer become more than just colleagues and a romance ensues that makes it hard for him to protect her. The story was originally written in the mid-70s for noted film actor Steve McQueen and Motown star Diana Ross but was shelved until 1992.
The role of Marron is portrayed by Grammy nominated vocalist and Canadian beauty Deborah Cox. Like Houston, Cox is star in her own right and can relate to the complicated life of being a public figure. Vocally, she is a “beast” and really shines throughout the 16 musical numbers that appear in the show. From the high energy opener, “Queen of the Night” (my favorite part of the show) to the heartfelt “Greatest Love of All” to the spellbinding “One Moment in Time,” Cox delivers with enough authority and ease that you almost believe these songs could have been written for her as they were for Houston. But Cox’s performance is not without flaws. There are a few scenes in the beginning where I didn’t believe her and wasn’t quite sure whether it was her fault or the pace at which the show runs. Don’t blink because it moves as swiftly as the tightly choreographed dance numbers.
Judson Mills as Frank Farmer could use a little work too. I didn’t feel like I really got to “see” Farmer until the romance bloomed between him and Marron. There were also times that I felt Mills was a bit stiff and I wasn’t able to connect with him as I did with Kevin Costner in the film version. I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed “the karaoke” scene where he attempts to sing “I Will Always Love You.” It’s a great addition to the story and the audience eats it up.
The role of Nicki Marron, Rachel’s jealous hearted sister, is expanded and features the dynamic talents of Jasmin Richardson. Much like the character in the film, she is a bitter sibling living in the shadows of her famous sister, who feels overlooked. Nicki also falls for Farmer’s charming ways and finds herself in another competition with her sister. Vocally, Richardson is just as talented as the show’s star and steps into the role of Rachel when Cox is not performing.
Another role that is expanded in the show is that of Marron’s son, Fletcher, who is played by the amazingly talented Douglas Baldeo and Kevelin B. Jones III. In the film, he was seen sporadically but this time he plays an integral part of the story. We also see him develop this father-son like bond with Farmer that we didn’t see in the film.
As previously mentioned, the show features over 16 of Houston’s songs including a huge chunk of her early hits like “So Emotional,” “How Will I Know” and “All at Once.” It also includes her show-stopping ballads like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “Run to You,” and “I Have Nothing,” and almost serves as a character in itself. Again, Cox moves through these lyrics and melodies with grace and had plenty of time to make them her own since she was the music voice of Houston in the 2015 controversial Lifetime biopic.
In closing, “The Bodyguard The Musical,” will keep fans entertained with lots of dazzling costumes, wigs, outstanding vocal talent and over-the-top dance numbers. Most of all it will be a gentle reminder why Houston will forever be known as “The Voice.”
“The Bodyguard the Musical” plays tonight at 8 p.m. and tomorrow at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Click here for tickets!
Photo Credit: Broadway.com