BWW Review: Decent Voices in Paramount's THE BODYGUARD but Not the Queen of the Night
In the latest in the spate of movies turned musicals with no new music to speak of to turn up in Seattle, following in the trend of "Dirty Dancing" or the egregious "Flashdance", we've now been offered up "The Bodyguard". And while the current offering didn't live up, or should I say down, to the aforementioned "maniac", this romance shoe-horned into a Whitney Houston cover band didn't live up to the "Queen of the Night" either with its lackluster and stiff performances.
Based on the 1992 movie, we follow Rachel Marron (Deborah Cox), a pop diva to beat all pop divas who's been plagued by creepy and threatening letters from a stalker (Jorge Paniagua). Enter Frank Farmer (Judson Mills), the bodyguard to beat all bodyguards, who's been tasked with keeping the diva safe. But of course, she and her entourage don't make things easy as no one wants to change her lavish and public lifestyle. But eventually things come to a head and Rachel relents and, of course, they fall in love.
What you can expect musically is more of the same of what you got from the movie. Nothing that moves the story along, just pauses in the story as Rachel belts out another rousing Whitney Houston number whether in concert or rehearsal or whatever. But since we need more than what the movie offered musically we've jammed even more Houston songs into the show as well for more concerts and rehearsals and whatever resulting in more pauses in the story. You also, occasionally get a song from Rachel's sister Nicki (Jasmin Richardson) as she attempts her own failing singing career or pines after Frank but the majority still comes from Cox.
If it worked for the movie then it should work here, right? Well the reason it worked for the movie was that Houston WAS a diva. Arguably one of the most beautiful and powerful voices on the planet in her day and she had the swagger and confidence to back up the role. Cox does not. Sure, she has a beautiful voice and she truly sells some of the numbers but many of the others feel nice but a little phoned in. Maybe they've been on tour too long but I just wasn't getting much of a diva performance from this diva. As for her counterpart, Mills seems to have one speed, closed off man, giving him the emotional range and depth of a tree except for the fact that trees have growth. No one changed or grew at all in this one.
Now you may think I'm comparing this too much to the movie except they want you to do that. They want you to see the movie up there with several lighting gimmicks that would mimic a jump cut of a camera or a silhouette for effect. They even have the climactic moment where Cox is singing the iconic "I Will Always Love You" to a video montage of her memories of Frank projected on a screen around her. But these lighting effects are the only thing jamming any kind of stakes or tension of the story into place as the performances are all just going through the motions.
Sure, you can go and enjoy Cox's singing, which is beautiful, but the surrounding story comes across as a bit silly. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "The Bodyguard" at the Paramount a Diva-less MEH. When will they learn? If you're going to try and recreate a movie on stage, at least do it well.
"The Bodyguard" performs at the Paramount through November 19th. For tickets or information visit Seattle Theatre Group online at www.stgpresents.org.