*Though many may not have wanted to love it, after all, anything iconic that has the nerve to be revisited stands the chance of being nothing more than a pathetic rendition, Los Angeles audiences rose to the occasion and filled the house at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre on opening night to see “The Bodyguard: The Musical.” Moreover, we wanted to see how recording artist Deborah Cox would measure up.
They were not disappointed!
Based on Lawrence Kasden’s 1992 screenplay and a book by the Oscar-winning Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman) ‘The Bodyguard’ film was released on November 25, 1992 and made a whopping $411 million in the U. S. A. The film tells the story of pop-diva Rachel Marron, her deranged stalker-killer, and the former-secret-service-agent-turned-bodyguard who comes on-board to protect her. The script is not without the complications of an envious sister, a 10-year-old son and the eventual love triangle that develops.
‘The Bodyguard: The Musical’ takes a few creative liberties (one being the role of the star’s sister is tweaked, and the stalker/killer in the film was two different people — now he’s one in the same) otherwise, it pretty much follows the basics of the original script.
Director Thea Sharrock does manage to prove how difficult the translation from film to stage can be; and as a result it appears she is trying to have it both ways. Intrusive bright lights, awkward slow-mo movements, jarring noises, and big screen projections deployed whenever the stalker (Jorge Paniagua) appears is certainly effective in getting our attention, but still seems out of place for the stage.
Though the director didn’t always make the greatest of choices, I doubt her game of creative ping-pong phased the opening night audience negatively. Cox looks great and is absolutely fabulous singing the legendary songs and channeling the spirit of the icon who made them famous. Even better, she does this without attempting to mimic her. No easy feat I might add, even for a pro. Every note and nuance of songs such as I Wanna Dance With Somebody, I Wanna Run to You, The Greatest Love of All, and Saving All My Love For You by now rest comfortably in the consciousness of every human being that has ever been in earshot of them; so for Deborah Cox to be able to take these songs — 16 of them, to boot — and make them her own is nothing short of miraculous.
She’s just that good, and the Tah-dah factor brought on by Tim Hatley’s beautiful set and costumes and the well-choreographed dance numbers by Karen Bruce are simply gorgeous!
Cox and co-star, Judson Mills, work well together.
His stoic, hard-nosed-protective demeanor against her stubborn, diva-like persona keeps the audience engaged. At times, we even get a few chuckles in. Like when Marron coyly inquires about dating to Farmer. “What if a guy invites me upstairs,” she asks. “Will YOU be there too?” The first date between Farmer and Marron prove another light moment; especially when the agent decides to forgo a lost bet and sing karaoke…oh so badly.
Jasmin Richards as Nicki Marron, the envious sister of the star, gives a fine performance — both vocally and theatrically. Her voice is exquisite — a solid rival with that of Cox (no wonder she is also an understudy for the starring role) — and she handles the little she is given to do well. You kind of wish that, as part of the love-triangle between her diva sister, Rachel, and bodyguard Frank, her role could’ve been, well…more.
How adorable Kevelin B. Jones III is as Fletcher, the 10-year-old son of Rachel Marron. A real pro already, his beyond-his-years talent will no doubt remind audiences of another star who snatched hearts while wearing a purple hat and singing his heart out with his four brothers on national TV so long ago!
‘The Bodyguard: The Musical’ will give audiences just what they came for: A fun-filled evening of musical theatre, with spirited, audacious vocals. If you didn’t know, now you know: Deborah Cox is superb! and what she did at the end of the show on this night, during a standing ovation — with palms together as she gave a quick glance up to the sky — spoke loud and clear to those who noticed it!
‘The Bodyguard: The Musical’ is 2 hours and 20 minutes long with a 15-minute intermission. The show runs through May 21st at The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California. Ticket prices are $35 and up and can be purchased at www.HollywoodPantages.com. Check out national tour dates and states here.
Deborah Cox is not scheduled to perform at matinees.
About the writer:
DeBorah B. Pryor has been in entertainment journalism for more than 30 years. She has a B.A. in Drama from San Francisco State University, and is a former stage actor and 4-A union member. Follow her on her upcoming Uber book escapades @bleedingheart1k