Full of suspense and romance and set to a variety of beloved Whitney Houston tunes, “The Bodyguard: The Musical” has brought the 1992 film to life on stage since 2012, and Broadway Grand Rapids is delighted to bring the show to DeVos Performance Hall.
The award-winning musical stars Grammy Award-nominee and R&B superstar Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron, a famous singer whose management enlists the assistance of former secret service agent Frank Farmer (Judson Mills) to be her bodyguard after a stalker (Jorge Paniagua) starts threatening her.
Stubborn and determined to keep up her career, Rachel is initially resistant to the changes that Frank attempts to impose upon her life and believes that she is perfectly safe. It isn’t until Frank prevents Rachel’s stalker from attacking her while performing at a nightclub and carries her offstage in his arms that she realizes she’s developing feelings for him.
Ah, but there’s also a love triangle. Rachel’s sister Nicki (Jasmin Richardson), who works with Rachel, hopes for some romance with the bodyguard as well. Unfortunately for her, Rachel ends up declaring her love for Frank in a karaoke bar where the two of them are on a date, and they share a passionate kiss.
As Rachel and Frank’s relationship unfolds, however, they realize that keeping their personal feelings and career obligations separate is a difficult matter – especially as the stalker’s actions become more and more detrimental. Frank must decide if he should forsake his career to be with Rachel, and Rachel must decide if attaining her personal and career goals are truly worth the risk.
From the get-go, “The Bodyguard: The Musical” takes audience members on a vibrant and thrilling journey. In some of the show’s more extravagant musical numbers, such as the “Queen of the Night” opening number, roving spotlights and bursts of smoke ignite the stage and provide a high-energy atmosphere.
Yet, intermixed with these lively scenes are instances of darkness and suspense whenever the stalker pops up. The “Mayan Medley” number, which transpires during Rachel’s nightclub performance, is a key scene that juxtaposes the loud nightclub atmosphere with sudden slow-motion pauses and ominous heavy breathing as the stalker attempts to get closer to Rachel.
Other songs resonate with audiences in a way that is more sentimental than suspenseful. During “Run to You,” Rachel and Nicki both ponder their feelings for Frank with gorgeous melodies and sweeping crescendos, showing that talent certainly runs in the family.
The talent doesn’t stop with Rachel’s son, Fletcher (Kevelin B. Jones III). From busting some impressive hip-hop moves during “How Will I Know” to delivering a charming rendition of “Jesus Loves Me,” Fletcher is a youthful delight in a performance that features otherwise all-adult characters and deals primarily with adult situations.
“The Bodyguard: The Musical” also includes a fair amount of humor to keep audience members entertained. Rachel’s music producer Sy (Jonathan Hadley) is equal parts exasperating and endearing, creating a comical performance. The occasional innuendo keeps things amusing, as does the karaoke bar scene where some drunken girls butcher a rendition of “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and Frank fails to do justice to the legendary hit “I Will Always Love You.” Don’t worry, though – this song returns in the end with Rachel packing a powerful vocal punch.
Although the show ends on a rather emotional note (you’ll see exactly why if you go and see it), the entire cast comes out for after the final bows and performs an exuberantly-choreographed rendition of Houston’s hit “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” inevitably prompting audience members to rise to their feet and join in with clapping and singing.
It’s this engaging dynamic that makes “The Bodyguard: The Musical” a real treat. Whether you don’t know much about Whitney Houston or “I Will Always Love You” is your go-to karaoke song of choice, this show is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat and wanting to sing along.
Performances run through March 11. Tickets start at $38 and can be purchased at Broadway Grand Rapids.
*All photos by Joan Marcus