On The Road with Jonathan Hadley and THE BODYGUARD
After some 2,200 performances as the legendary Bob Crewe in the Broadway company of Jersey Boys, Jonathan Hadley is more than happy - maybe even contented - to update his resume with the words "journeyman actor," as he adds the role of Sy Spector in The Bodyguard to the list of roles for which he is justifiably well-known.
Hadley's current journey - which will take him to theaters all over North America in the onstage musical version of The Bodyguard film that starred Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner (their roles now filled by pop music diva, the Grammy Award-nominated Deborah Cox and veteran television actor Judson Mills) - has already tested the limits of his suitcases and his own ability to pack only what's needed for life on the road, brings him to Nashville (aka Music City USA), where on Tuesday night The Bodyguard celebrates its latest opening night of a weeklong engagement at Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall.
"I had a giant reunion of family friends in Charlotte," Hadley reported "from the road" during the company's run in Charlotte, North Carolina, his hometown. "And I have all sorts of cousins and family and friends coming to the show in Durham."
Hadley's friends and family are on hand to see his performance of Sy Spector - a character who was also included in the film treatment of Lawrence Kasdan's script - who is described by a friend of Hadley (who saw him at Paper Mill Playhouse last fall) as "endearingly annoying." The actor himself says Sy is a "press agent, a kind of slick member of Rachel Marron's entourage."
After the show's North American premier at Paper Mill Playhouse, where it ran to good notices - both from audiences and critics alike - the cast and crew hit the road in January. "At that point, when you are touring, it become about how life is lived on the road," he muses. "I'm able to be the 'experience man on the road' since I've done it and a lot of this cast is new to touring life...I can offer advice and stories about what it's like!"
The popularity of The Bodyguard is due in large part, of course to the fact that "the movie has hardcore fans - and I think that's obviously one reason people are coming to the show, plus there are all these Deborah Cox fans who are coming to see her perform and there's the fact that they added songs from the Whitney Houston catalog to the score and that attracts an audience as well," Hadley suggests.
Cox's performance, which draws upon her own experiences as a pop music entertainer with thousands of loyal fans, ensures that audiences leave the theater every night enthusiastic about what they've seen and heard and it's the excitement generated by that experience that makes each performance fresh.
"Deborah brings her own experience to the stage every night and watching her perform is amazing," he says. "People love seeing a real pop star playing a pop star onstage - Deborah is amazing! She understands a lot of what the character of Rachel is going through and it informs her performance as an actor, as a result."
"She sings 13 or 14 Whitney Houston songs during every show and she's supported onstage by incredible singers and dancers. The numbers are stunning and immerse - it's like being at a rock concert with lasers and everybody in the audience ending up on their feet dancing at every performance!"
It's that "immersive" sense of the music - the songs that provide the score not only to the show, but to the lives of the people in the audience - that helps explain the popularity and tickets sales for The Bodyguard in all the towns the company plays.
"Every show is different because every audience is different," Hadley explains. "What works in Appleton is different from what works in Memphis, so every night you get these different responses and, for me at least, that's what helps keep the show fresh.
"Doing a show on Broadway is great fun, of course, but it's your job and at the end of the night you go home to your own place. When you're on tour, each week is a whole new experience because you're in a different theater, you're working with new people backstage and while the show itself doesn't change, the audiences are different and they make it a different show and that always refreshes everything as you move from one city to the next. It's fascinating, almost like a social experiment to see the different reactions you get in different towns."
About the show: The first U.S. National Tour of the hit musical The Bodyguard, starring Grammy Award-nominated and multi-platinum R&B/Pop recording artist and film/TV actress Deborah Cox, makes its Nashville debut at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall in a limited, one-week run March 21-26.
The Bodyguard tells the story of former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don't expect is to fall in love. A romantic thriller, "The Bodyguard" features a host of irresistible classics including "So Emotional," "One Moment in Time," "Saving All My Love," "Run to You," "I Have Nothing," "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and one of the biggest selling songs of all time - "I Will Always Love You."
"Coming to Nashville fresh from its successful West End run, The Bodyguard is a thrilling stage adaptation of Lawrence Kasdan's popular 1992 film with an exceptional cast," said Kathleen O'Brien, TPAC's president and chief executive officer. "Deborah Cox is stunning and amazingly talented. The role of Rachel Marron demands extraordinary vocal capacity and poise, and she absolutely nails the notes and delivers in fabulous fashion."
Based on Lawrence Kasdan's 1992 Academy Award-nominatEd Warner Bros. film, and adapted by Academy Award-winner (Birdman) Alexander Dinelaris, The Bodyguard made its world premiere on December 5, 2012, at London's Adelphi Theatre. The Bodyguard was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical and Best Set Design, and it won Best New Musical at the WhatsOnStage Awards. The U.K. production of the musical recently completed a sell-out 16-month U.K. and Ireland Tour and made its triumphant return to London's West End at the Dominion Theatre on July 15, 2016.
Tickets are available at www.tpac.org, by phone at (615) 782-4040 and at the TPAC box office at 505 Deaderick Street in downtown Nashville. For groups of 10 or more, call (615) 782-4060.
PHOTOS BY Joan Marcus