BWW Review: THE BODYGUARD Provides A Glitzy and Lively Evening of Whitney Houston Classics
THE BODYGUARD, based on the eponymous film starring Whitney Houston as pop star Rachel Marron and Kevin Costner as her bodyguard Frank Farmer, has plenty of glitz and glamour to go around in its current engagement at Broadway In Chicago's Oriental Theatre. Throughout the night, lead Deborah Cox shines as Rachel in a never-ending array of glittery costumes from Tim Hatley (who also designed the set). And when Cox tears into one of Houston's classic numbers, it's also a joy.
But while THE BODYGUARD supplies ample entertainment and music-including some rather dark twists, as Rachel is being pursued by a mysterious stalker (a convincingly creepy Jorge Paniagua)-it's light on narrative. Book writer Alexander Dinelaris, who did excellent work for the Gloria Estefan musical ON YOUR FEET!, does little here to successfully weave Houston's songs into the story. And while in the film it may have worked just fine for Frank Farmer (here portrayed in a stoic but warm turn by Judson Mills) not to sing any numbers, it makes for a rather lopsided musical. While THE BODYGUARD does poke fun at this fact in an awkward karaoke scene with Frank and Rachel, it does not make up for the fact that the two characters sometimes seem to occupy opposite tracks in this show. While Cox is given ample opportunity to demonstrate her love for Frank in Houston's songs, we don't see the same growth from Frank.
As a result, THE BODYGUARD also becomes a show that very much belongs to Cox. She's certainly a dazzling vocalist, but the strongest acting of the evening belongs to Jasmin Richardson in the role of Rachel's sister Nicki. Richardson makes the most of every moment she appears onstage, and she's also every bit Cox's vocal equal. The opportunity to hear both of these terrific performers unleash their formidable vocal chops on Houston's song catalog is the most compelling reason to see THE BODYGUARD.
While THE BODYGUARD is light on story-and sometimes too over-the-top (the use of projections in this show is occasionally cringe-worthy)-the chance to hear Houston's songs on stage makes it an enjoyable evening. This is not a great work of musical theater, but fans of the original film or Whitney Houston in general will have a good time seeing this.
THE BODYGUARD plays through February 12 at Broadway In Chicago's Oriental Theatre, 24 West Randolph. Tickets are $44-$120. For more information, visit BroadwayinChicago.com.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus