Turning the 1992 Whitney Houston-Kevin Costner flick The Bodyguard into a theatrical musical wasn’t a bad idea, but boy, it has been adapted to the stage very badly.
Its success in London’s West End and then on tour in this country is surely due to the residual affection for that film, as well as for the Houston song trunk which forms the basis for this jukebox musical. And had rhythm-and-blues vocalist Deborah Cox used the show’s song list for a one-woman concert, it would be just as effective and we would all be home from the Kravis Center about an hour earlier.
As you probably recall, The Bodyguard is about Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter Rachel Marron (Cox), who receives an ominous fan letter. So personal security guard Frank Farmer (Judson Mills) is hired to protect her, even though he has a history of clients ending up dead on his watch. Rachel takes an instant dislike to Frank, until she abruptly decides to date him and take him into her bed. This may have made more sense in the movie, but in the streamlined stage script by Alexander Dinelaris, motivations have landed on the cutting room floor.
Fortunately there is Cox and her leather-lunged vocal chops, belting out such familiar numbers as “All at Once,” “How Will I Know,” “One Moment in Time,” ‘How Will I Know” and “Greatest Love of All.” They too are often motivation-challenged or simply placed arbitrarily throughout the show as presentation club songs. And yes, never fear, Cox does sing “I Will Always Love You,” but as a show-ending coda, in full diva regalia, atop a rising hydraulic cube. Go ahead, try not to giggle. I dare you.
Otherwise, the show follows the film reasonably closely, except for the addition of Rachel’s sister Nicki (understudy Naomi C. Walley at Tuesday evening’s performance), for the sake of romantic and professional jealousy, as well as to allow Cox some breathing room between musical numbers.
You see, in the adaptation process, the show’s creators forgot to give Frank anything to sing (besides a few croaks at a karaoke bar). That oversight generates a serious imbalance in the evening and leaves Frank even more of a cipher as leading men go.
Director Thea Sharrock favors pumping up the final verses of power anthems and employing slide-away walls that reveal skies full of twinkly lights. As you might imagine, that gets old pretty quickly.
Karen Bruce’s choreography for Cox’s energetic back-up dancers is an enjoyable diversion, Tim Hatley’s costumes are attractive and often skimpy and Duncan McLean’s videos add a few suspenseful touches. Still, The Bodyguard is unlikely to ever land on Broadway and should send fans of the movie running in search of the DVD to remind them why they liked it in the first place.
THE BODYGUARD, Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Through Sunday. From $28 up. 561-832-7469.