Theater is usually associated with flashy tap numbers, a star-crossed love story, and a few ballads to make the audience’s hearts break. The Bodyguard, directed by Thea Sharrock, taken from the iconic 1992 movie that starred Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, tried to tie these three elements together but sadly, with the material they were given, fell short. The production is packed full of talented performers, and the opening and closing numbers had the audience dancing in and out of their seats, but with book that they were given, The Bodyguard sadly became yet another failed jukebox musical.
The production was led by Deborah Cox, playing the famous popstar Rachel Marron. Her acting was subpar, falling short at some points and seeming over the top in others. But Cox’s performance was redeemed by her voice. Her rendition of the famous “I Will Always Love You”, received an ovation from the audience before the song was even over, proving how powerful her voice was. To match Cox’s powerful voice was Judson Mills’ performance as Frank Farmer, the hired Bodygaurd. His role was extremely versatile, needing to remain strict and professional while sneaking bits of humor into his character at times. Mills did this flawlessly and his performance was thoroughly entertaining to watch, these two performances made the production entertaining to watch.
The Bodyguard follows the story of Rachel Marron and her Bodyguard as he protects her from her stalker. Jorge Paniagua flawlessly struck fear into the audience and had us sitting on the edge of our seats throughout the entire show. Every movement Paniagua made on stage was slow, meticulous and terrifying. And while he had no lines or songs during the show, he successfully stole the show, having moments that erupted the audience into screams and hysterics. Paniagua played his role so well, that during curtain call, when the show is presumed “over” and it is acceptable for the actors to drop character, he received boos from the audience. He committed to his role so much that even when he was allowed to return to his own self, the audience was still terrified of him.
The recurring problem in jukebox musicals, is that there are too many well known songs crammed into an empty plotline. The Bodyguard followed this theme. In Act II of the performance, every song was a sad ballad that sounded the same as the one before it, and seemingly had no relevance to what was happening during the show. The book did not allow the audience to learn anything about the characters, and prevented the actors from being able to show the true emotions that were needed in some parts of the show.
The show contained a few showstopping numbers that almost redeemed the lacking plotline of the show. Closing the performance of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” had the audience grabbing their neighbor, stranger or not, and dancing the night away. With some of these redeeming qualities, and the powerful performances by the actors, the show was no doubt entertaining, but it's jukebox ways kept the audience from learning all of the information they needed to know, and prevented them from learning about the characters and growing attachments to them like the would have.
The Bodyguard runs at the Orpheum until January 15, and if you are in the mood for a thriller with powerful ballads, I strongly recommend investing in tickets. But if you are looking for something with a little more depth and a strong story line, save the trip into the city.