A stage musical can be made from any source. The Bodyguard has a bit of an edge because musical numbers fueled the original film, mostly heard in small segments. The Bodyguard starred Kevin Costner as Frank Farmer and Whitney Houston (in her feature film debut) as Rachel Marron.
In 1992, The Bodyguard was the second highest grossing film worldwide and to this day boasts the largest selling soundtrack of all time. The stage musical is written by Alexander Dinelaris based on Lawrence Kasdan’s original screenplay. Kasdan had actually written the screenplay in the mid-1970s as a vehicle for Steve McQueen and Diana Ross.
The musical focuses on the Houston character of Rachel and downplays Farmer. Songs used in the movie are played in full, while other songs from Houston’s career, like “Saving All My Love For You” complement the production. There are sixteen songs total.
There are some significant changes to the play plot wise. In the movie, Marron has two obsessive stalkers, and her sister Nikki is actually involved with hiring one of the stalkers. The play streamlines the danger to one bad guy and Nikki has no part in the threat to her sister, other than her jealousy because she too has a crush on the bodyguard.
Another good twist has Farmer singing “I Will Always Love You,” during a karaoke date with Rachel. In the movie we hear the same song over the jukebox performed by John Doe.
Fans of Houston’s music and legacy will be thoroughly entertained while more analytical eyes will recognize that the best thing The Bodyguard has going for it is clever set design.
Illuminated arches that open and close accordion style form a series of layers. This focuses the audiences on specific parts of the stage. In a sense it’s like looking through a proscenium arch within a proscenium arch within yet another proscenium arch.
Advertised star, Grammy winning artist Deborah Cox, was under the weather opening night. Jasmin Richardson, who normally plays Nikki in the play, filled her role. Richardson, a Houston native, brought her A-game to the vocals. Judson Mills as Farmer hits all his marks but seems hampered by the fact his character plays second fiddle to Rachel and lacks certain elements of character development that made the movie a success.
Since this is a musical it wouldn’t be out of the question to give Farmer a real song or two.
Rachel’s closing performance of “I Will Always Love You,” was and always will be a showstopper. The irony is not lost that this staple of Houston’s career was written decades earlier by Dolly Parton as a tribute to her muse Porter Wagoner.
The Bodyguard plays at the Hobby Center as part of the Broadway in Hobby Center series until Sunday, Aug. 20, with matinee and evening performance on the weekend.