In a show that begins with gunshots and ends with glitter, the topsy turvy musical The Bodyguard, directed by Thea Sharrock, uses the pop hits of Whitney Houston to challenge to the typical dynamics of theatre. Based on the 1992 Whitney Houston film of the same name, Grammy nominated superstar Deborah Cox plays Rachel Marron, a popular singer whose life is put in danger after threats from a stalker. To combat this danger, the brooding Frank Farmer (Judson Mills) is hired as Marron’s bodyguard to protect her and her family. In such a show with a thriller plot, suspenseful action, and high energy performances The Bodyguard does leave audience in lively spirit. Yet, the show’s attempt to break the usual mold of theater productions sacrifices fulfilling storytelling.
As a leading lady, Deborah Cox is a marvelous performer. She struts and dances on stage surrounded by vibrant background dancers, and pulls at powerful emotions in the show’s moving numbers. Despite the dramatic plot’s high highs and low lows, Cox unfortunately does not demonstrate a wide acting ability and lacks chemistry with leading man Judson Mills. Mills, on the other hand, is able to show his capability of both a macho man and a kind heart, done through the mixture of almost film noir direction and the show’s uplifting scenes. Rachel’s sister Nicki Marron, played by Jasmin Richardson, personally stole the show for me. Her quips land and her voice shines. Richardson also has great chemistry with Mills, in the brief love triangle between Frank and the sisters. While these performances mostly excel in the production’s more intimate moments, when characters are put into peril by The Stalker (Jorge Paniagua), no threats feel particularly threatening. Even in moments of absolute danger, Cox’s Rachel is still-faced and continues to march onward with her plot.
The Bodyguard seeks to provide both a pop concert and cinematic experience in one musical. When Marron performs there are moving platforms, bright lights, and colorful costumes. Despite the plethora of adrenaline on stage, the audience is accustomed to sitting and applauding at the end of a number, and there seems to be a strange air as people wished they could act out normal concert etiquette. The production also makes use of video projections and dramatic sound clips, with video and sound design by Duncan McLean and Richard Brooker. These really influence the show to feel very movie-esque, which I believe is the show’s downfall. The show did not feel like live theatre, but like a movie, and it sadly, just did not work.
If audience members are fans of Houston's music, or possibly the original movie, I would recommend this show. It is not bad, and I definitely enjoyed myself. There are fun numbers, shiny sets and costumes, and powerhouse vocals. But to me, the show’s unusual fluid format comprised the story, and it simply did not feel like a true theatrical performance. And that missing piece that was a nagging absent.