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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 17, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 46
The Bodyguard fails to protect - the audience
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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The Bodyguard fails to protect - the audience

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

BROADWAY AT THE PARAMOUNT
THE BODYGUARD, THE MUSICAL
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
Through November 19


The Bodyguard is the musical based on the hit movie by the same name. Created as a vehicle for the music of the late Whitney Houston, the film was transferred to the stage in 2012. Expanding the musical library, the stage production gives the full versions of songs represented in the film as well as adding in other hits from the pop Diva. The musical is currently playing at Seattle's Paramount Theatre starring the mega-pop star, Deborah Cox.

The storyline tells the tale of Rachel Marron. Ms. Marron is currently one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. Making her film debut in the new movie 'Queen of the Night,' Ms. Marron is up for several Oscar nominations, including the film's hit song, 'One Moment in Time.' When a stalker continuously sends her threatening letters, Frank Farmer is hired as the best of the best in security to protect Rachel, her son Fletcher, and her sister Nicki. Both women develop feelings for Frank, who is trying to keep all of them safe - at all costs.

Let me start off by saying I have never seen the movie. I am one of the few gay men of my generation that has not. While I admire the incomparable, undisputed talents of Ms. Whitney Houston, she's never been in my top Diva list. That being said I had absolutely no knowledge of what was going to happen on stage, and therefore no expectations. My friend Vincent - Guide to All Things Whitney came with me to help educate me.

The show's ensemble works hard. Rachel's back up dancers are as good as any contemporary rock star's ought to be. The women are played more for comic relief, but are just as good as their male counterparts. Those playing Rachel's more inner circle (i.e., the house security, assorted managers&) were not as noticeable. In fact, none of them really stood out, unfortunately.

Also, if the stalker (Jorge Paniagua) were anymore cardboard he'd be&cardboard. Maybe that was his choice to play it that way. Maybe that's the way he was directed. Either way, it didn't work and he was as menacing as Dr. Evil. The surge of music they played every time he was on stage was as subtle as Psycho's screeching violins in pointing out 'this is the villain.' Even the title role of bodyguard, Frank Farmer (Judson Mills) was completely monotonous with only a few momentary exceptions.

There are really only two people to take note of from this production. Jasmin Richardson plays the (expanded from the movie) role of Nicki Marron, Rachel's sister. Nicki sings in a small lounge dreaming of having a bigger career, while harvesting resentment at her sister's success. Ms. Richardson has a beautiful voice. Her singing at the seedy lounge is sultry, and we feel the heat. Her stage presence is subtle but ever present and, apologies to Ms. Cox, her skilled tools showed what true theater talent is.

The star of the show playing Rachel Marron (except Saturday Matinee) is undoubtedly Ms. Deborah Cox. The show opens with Ms. Marron performing in concert, singing 'Queen of the Night.' Deborah Cox delivers the goods. She is in her element by singing in a concert setting in front of a live audience. There is no doubt as to why Ms. Cox is a Grammy Award Nominee. Her voice is strong and she knows how to use it to its fullest abilities. The audience member sitting on the other side of me was so enraptured that he kept enthusiastically calling out 'Go Deborah' during the first few concert scenes of the musical. I had to lean over to whisper the reminder, 'She's supposed to be Rachel not Deborah.' I think that summarized the rest of Ms. Cox's stage performance for the evening.

The show's music has vastly expanded from the original film soundtrack. All songs are 100% from the Whitney Houston catalogue - with the exception of 'Jesus Loves Me.' My friend Vincent - Guide to All Things Whitney was not alone, as several people around me were dancing in their seats and lip-singing (some louder than others) along to Ms. Houston's incredible song list. The numbers chosen will not disappoint the Houston fans; all of her big hits are represented in full. In fact, stay for the final Encore as the cast erupts in a unified 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody.'

At the show's end I turned to Vincent - Guide To All Things Whitney and said, 'Before you say anything, let me tell you what was added for the stage.' I listed off every scene that I thought would NOT be in what was one of the biggest film blockbusters of its time. He was amazed at my 96% accuracy (4% points of semantics). He asked how I knew the differences if I never saw the movie. 'Because,' I answered, 'those scenes were so cheesy, they should have been served with crackers.'

The musical is based on the hit 1992 film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. It was adapted for the stage in 2012 opening in December of the same year. Heather Hadley created the role of Rachel Marron on stage in London's West End. Despite the musical receiving less than flattering reviews, the musical continued to play there for over a year, receiving four Olivier (UK equivalent to the American Tony) Award nominations. The Bodyguard has a tentative Broadway opening scheduled for some time in 2018.

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