Jasmin Richardson (left) and Deborah Cox in "The Bodyguard The Musical." Photo by Joan Marcus
“The Bodyguard The Musical” begins in darkness with the startling sound of a gunshot, a rather unsettling moment for theatergoers given recent events in the news. But once the stage lights come up, the tension vanishes and this five-year-old adaptation of the 1992 motion picture concentrates on simply entertaining its audience with the songs of Whitney Houston, romance and relatively benign melodrama.
Alexander Dinelaris’ book doesn’t tray too far from the well-remembered film that starred Houston and Kevin Costner, a tale about a Grammy-winning singer who’s being stalked by a psycho, and the hunky bodyguard hired to protect her. The stage show presented by Broadway San Diego emphasizes the Rachel Marron character over the bodyguard’s, unlike in the movie, but that makes sense because this is, after all, a musical. Deborah Cox belts out Houston hits like “I’m Every Woman,” “Greatest Love of All,” Run to You” and, inevitably, “I Will Always Love you,” with ardency. A veteran of both “Aida” and “Jekyll & Hyde” on Broadway, the R&B/pop artist is no stranger to the boards. An added treat in this touring production is Jasmin Richardson, portraying Rachel’s troubled but talented sister, Nicki. Her vocals are wistfully reminiscent of Dionne Warwick, a cousin of Whitney Houston, of course. As Frank Farmer, the laconic bodyguard, Judson Mills is mostly a modern-day Matt Dillon in a suit, though he does well with the meager bits of humor given him, such as at a karaoke bar. That scene, with Cox’s Rachel surprising the unsuspecting customers with a cameo performance, is the most genuine and most fun in “The Bodyguard The Musical.”
The business with the homicidal stalker (Bradford Rahmlow) is strictly formulaic. Even at its most intentionally sinister, it takes a back seat to Cox’s full-throated rendering of Houston’s tunes and the electric choreography by Karen Bruce.
“The Bodyguard The Musical” continues through Sunday at the Civic Theatre downtown.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat