BWW Review: THE BODYGUARD Brings the Movie to Life at the Peace Center
It starts with a bang and ends with a dance party. In between we get action, drama, romance, and pretty much all of Whitney Houston's greatest hits. Based on the smash hit 1992 movie starring Houston and Kevin Costner, The Bodyguard is a big, bright, entertaining musical, now playing in a touring production at Greenville's Peace Center.
The show introduces us to Rachel Marron (Deborah Cox), a Whitney Houston-like pop star, and Frank Farmer (Judson Mills), the bodyguard hired to protect Rachel from a stalker (Jorge Paniagua). Rachel and Frank are both strong-willed individuals who quickly begin to clash. But Frank's steady influence grows, especially with Rachel's young son Fletcher (played on alternate nights by Kevelin B. Jones III & Sebastian Maynard-Palmer), and also with Rachel's younger sister, Nicki (Jasmin Richardson), who perpetually lives in the shadow of her glamorous sibling. Soon, Frank finds himself intricately involved in the lives of the entire family as sparks - and gunshots - fly.
More so even than the original film, the musical version of The Bodyguard centers around flashy concert-style production numbers, complete with flashing lights, rising platforms, and a dazzling array of costumes. It's practically a movie come to life, with many nods to its cinematic inspiration, from the clever moving frame that serves as a primary set piece to the short video clips incorporated throughout. Unlike a more traditional musical, the songs here are mostly staged as concert pieces as we watch Rachel perform her signature hits.
At the press performance - and at this coming Saturday's matinee - Rachel was played by Jasmin Richardson. A formidable singer with her own star presence, Richardson was simply terrific, bringing out the character's controlling nature while also allowing her vulnerability to glow througH. Richardson handled the familiar songs with flair, particularly shining on "Greatest Love of All" and the climactic "I Will Always Love You."
As Frank Farmer, the bodyguard himself, Judson Mills does very little singing (although he does perform his own memorable take on "I Will Always Love You") but instead serves as a commanding anchor, around which the rest of the show revolves. Mills is a rock steady presence moving easily from action hero to love interest, with a likable charm and natural charisma.
Dequina Moore brought a winning sincerity to the role of Rachel's sister Nicki (usually played by Richardson) and the duet between the sisters, "Run To You," was another of the show's vocal highlights. Moore also had some of the show's best dramatic moments, and she acted them beautifully. Other standouts include the charming Kevelin B. Jones III as Fletcher, Jonathan Hadley as exasperated publicist Sy Spector, Charles Gray as Rachel's manager Bill Devaney, and Matthew Schmidt in several roles, particularly the jaded DJ who gets the surprise of his life.
Kudos also go to the talented ensemble members whose energetic dancing brings Karen Bruce's glittering choreography to life. The show's fun, sparkly costumes and cleverly cinematic set are by Tim Hatley. Thea Sharrock directed, keeping the action moving and the songs big and bold. Mark Henderson's lights were extremely effective and sound designer Richard Brooker deftly balanced intimate dialogue, hard-driving pop vocals, and gunshots.
Packed with energy and the spirit of Whitney Houston's most familiar songs, The Bodyguard is like going to a movie and a concert at the same time. So make sure you bring somebody you want to dance with.
The Bodyguard runs through Sunday, September 17, at the Peace Center in downtown Greenville, SC. For tickets and showtimes call the box office at 864.467.3000 or visit peacecenter.org.