BWW Review: THE BODYGUARD is All About the Music, and That's Enough
You're probably skeptical about a musical based on a movie. I get it - I was too. But I encourage you to put that skepticism aside. This Whitney Houston tribute concert with a plot, part of the Broadway in Portland season, is packed with phenomenal performances of the late singer's greatest hits. And that's more than enough for an evening's entertainment.
In case you weren't old enough to get into R-rated movies in 1992, THE BODYGUARD was a romantic thriller starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner in which singer Rachel Marron (Houston) hires bodyguard Frank Farmer (Costner) to protect her from a stalker. The film propelled Houston to mega-stardom and produced the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time. The musical doesn't follow the plot exactly, but it's close enough that if you haven't seen the movie in the past 25 years you probably won't notice the differences. It also incorporates several songs from Houston's other albums, because there's no such thing as too much Whitney.
I've read many critical reviews of THE BODYGUARD, and they all say much the same thing: the script is weak, the staging is overly dramatic, the digital projections are weird. The criticisms all have merit, but I think they put the focus in the wrong place. You don't go to an action movie for the dialogue - you go for the action scenes and special effects. If you walk into THE BODYGUARD expecting Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, you'll be disappointed. But if you go for the music, you'll love it.
Clearly, for this musical to work, you need a powerhouse vocalist as Rachel Marron, and that's exactly what you get with Grammy-nominated multi-platinum recording artist Deborah Cox, who pays excellent homage to Houston while also making the songs her own. Another great performance comes from Jasmin Richardson as Rachel's sister, Nicki, who gets to sing "Saving All My Love" and (one of my personal favorites) "All at Once." The scene in which the two perform "Run to You" as a duet is one of the best moments.
Other highlights include Kevelin B. Jones III (the talented young actor who plays Rachel's son), the backup dancers, the karaoke scene, the costumes, and the curtain call (don't leave early). The show also has concert-like production values, which (those weird digital projections aside) provide plenty of entertaining visual spectacle.
Overall, I enjoyed THE BODYGUARD a lot, which was a lot more than I expected to. And I woke up still singing "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," which has made today pretty fun too.
THE BODYGUARD runs through Sunday at the Keller. More details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus