On Stage: The Bodyguard

The Fox Theatre launched its 35th season this week with “The Bodyguard,” or as it could be better titled — “The Whitney Houston Musical.”

Musicals based on the catalogue of pop stars is nothing new — the most popular are likely “Mamma Mia!” and “Jersey Boys.” So it was probably inevitable that someone would take the 1992 film “The Bodyguard,” which starred Houston and featured and a number of her songs, and expand it with even more of her tunes and bring it to the stage.

“The Bodyguard: The Musical” opened in London in 2012 and follows the story of the romantic thriller it is based on, with some changes. It includes all the songs Houston sang on the film soundtrack — including the hits “I Will Always Love You,” “I’m Every Woman” and “I Have Nothing.” They are joined by 10 other Houston favorites, such as “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All” and “One Moment in Time.” The show ends with a rousing version of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

Bodyguard0044r

Deborah Cox and company in a scene from “The Bodyguard.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Deborah Cox stars as Rachel Marron, a wildly popular singer and actress, who is promoting a new album while also aiming at an Academy Award nomination. When her life is threatened by a stalker, her manager brings in professional bodyguard Frank Farmer (Judson Mills).

Rachel doesn’t want Frank interfering in her life. Frank doesn’t want to deal with Rachel’s diva attitude. It is this kind of manufactured Hollywood tension that will eventually lead to them falling in love.

There’s not a lot of meat to this story. It all plays out as you’d expect, even if you haven’t seen the movie. There’s an interesting subplot brewing with Rachel’s sister Nikki (Jasmin Richardson) but it gets cut short. This isn’t a show to see for its deep character development or intricate plot.

But then, that’s common to many musicals. Where the show works is with the musical numbers and the powerful vocal performances by Cox and Richardson. If you are a fan of Whitney Houston’s music you will probably love this. I am not a Whitney Houston fan but this show gave me a better appreciation of her talent.

Wisely, the show doesn’t try to shoehorn the songs into the plot the way “Mamma Mia!” does. There is a decent balance of drama, romance and comedy. The scene at the karaoke bar is a highlight.

This high-energy musical boasts colorful costumes, pulsating light shows, and some inventive set designs. The story may be weak but the other elements make up for it.

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