Whitney Houston’s music resonates in ‘The Bodyguard’

COSTA MESA, CA-Love conquers all. Everyone loves a good love story. We all like great music to play alongside that love bonding. And certainly, there are plenty of people around the globe who will always adore the magnetic voice of the late, great Whitney Houston.

The touring stage play The Bodyguard, not only provides the backdrop of a budding romance between a handsomely rugged and protective agent and the superstar singer he’s asked to protect, The Bodyguard does one better by giving us the opportunity to fall in love with Houston all over again.

Yes, Deborah Cox owns the night her superlative and dazzlying portrayal as hitmaker Rachel Marron, whose mega-success has welcomed in an obsessed stalker with dark side tendencies. Yes, Cox shows us why she can more than hold her own with anyone when it comes to displaying her extraordinary vocal pipes.

After all, Cox has produced a dozen No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play charts. The lovely Canadian also blew away all comers when she dropped Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here, which held the top spot for 14 straight weeks as the longest-running No.1 R&B single.        

Segerstrom Center for the Arts – The Bodyguard – Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron and Judson Mills as Frank Farmer in The Bodyguard – Photo by Joan Marcus

And yes, Cox belies her forty-something years into a disappearing act as she prances on stage alongside her backup dancers in systematic rhythm as if she is half her age. But more than anything, The Bodyguard is a celebration of Huston and the songs she richly brought to life.

One of those songs, Run to You, which was one of two hits sung by Houston on the original The Bodyguard soundtrack that was nominated for an Academy Award, strikes at the core of the pop superstar’s transcendent ability to captivate audiences.

When Cox and Jasmin Richardson, who plays Nicki Marron, marvelously sing Run To You as a duet, the echoes of Houston is felt in a literal chill.

If there is a moment during the fast-moving production where the emotional heartstrings are being tugged at with an undertone of passion, Cox and Richardson delivers this love song with such an emphatic plea that you can hear the quiet weeping coming from the audience.

In the stillness of the hour as Cox and Richardson sing their hearts out in Run To You, the spirit of Houston reverberates like a much-needed hug. That is something that is inescapable for audiences coming to see The Bodyguard, which made its stage debut in London in 2012, a decade after the original film, The Bodyguard, was introduced. 

Segerstrom Center for the Arts – The Bodyguard – Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron and Company in The Bodyguard – Photo by Joan Marcus

Besides the original score, what you get in The Bodyguard, is a lovefest of Houston songs. The pot gets stirred when All at Once, Saving All My Love For You, and Greatest Love of All, all of which comes from Houston’s first album, Whitney Houston, is incorporated into the entertaining musical.

The party anthem I Wanna Dance With Somebody and the tantalizing All the Man That I Need, only serve as reminders of how special of a gift that Houston and her music was to us. There is only one Whitney Houston. There will only be one Whitney Houston.

But if you’re going to have someone portraying this musical legend, then you had better have a badass in mind. Cox fulfills this requirement. And then some. For someone to even consider stepping into a role once occupied by an icon takes a lot of guts and plenty doses of self-assurance.

Cox not only kicks butt and takes names in her role as Rachel Marron, she does Houston, whom she collaborated with on Same Script, Different Cast, proud. To carry out a successful musical, you have to have cast members who can bring it in the song department.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts – The Bodyguard – Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron and Judson Mills as Frank Farmer in The Bodyguard – Photo by Joan Marcus

Cox is at her best singing the tunes that made Houston famous. From How Will I Know to Houston’s earth-shattering I Will Only Love You, as a member of the audience, the anticipation of Houston’s power and otherworldly runs is met judiciously by Cox’s own melodic style. And this works well for The Bodyguard, which plays at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts through June 11 before it moves down the coast to San Diego for a short run.

The star of the show is clearly the songs Houston turned into her own. But the play’s leading co-stars, Cox, Richardson, an incredible talent in her own right, and Judson Mills (Frank Farmer) make The Bodyguard fun to watch. The old saying that opposites attract is what gives The Bodyguard an intriguing and fascinating appeal.      

So in this dramatic musical, directed by Thea Sharrock, what we see is a diva songstress who is used to getting her own way, and who doesn’t mind throwing a temper tantrum here and there, just to prove that point.

Farmer (Mills), Marron’s steely bodyguard assigned to her because of a possible threat to her safety and the well-being of her son, is not too keen to drama. He overlooks Marron’s self-serving ways with a no-nonsense approach.

The fact that someone can say no to her gets Marron’s juices running. In a world of “yes” people, fans and groupies all around her, this is something that Marron is not accustomed to. Eventually, the ice between the human protective shield and the person he’s paid to protect, warms up.

Before you know it, innocent and not-so-innocent flirtation turns into a romantic interlude. This is when The Bodyguard is at its best. As the chemistry between Marron and Farmer heats up, so does the music. The musical numbers correctly chosen for the play intensifies Marron and Farmer’s desire to be together.

With songs like I Have Nothing and One Moment in Time, The Bodyguard also speaks to the heartache and a sense of brokenness a relationship can sometime bring. Cox and Mills, in their respective roles as Marron and Farmer, do one heck of a job in capturing all of this.

They’re natural fits playing opposite one another. And this helps in making this particular love story feel genuinely authentic.

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