Although Whitney Houston passed away almost six years ago, her star continues to shine. Aspiring pop stars perform her greatest hits, and when they succeed, it’s the next best thing to having her back with us.
Now comes the US National tour of the West End musical, “The Bodyguard,” which runs November 14-19 at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre.
Based on the 1992 Warner Brothers film of the same name and the best-selling soundtrack of all time, the late Houston made her film debut and secured her mega-star status as superstar singer/composer Rachel Marron, with Kevin Costner as her former Secret-Service bodyguard, Frank Farmer.
“The Bodyguard” musical, directed by Thea Shadrock, had its world premiere on December 5, 2012 at London’s Adelphi Theatre. It was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical and Best Set Design and won Best New Musical at the Whatsonstage Awards. After touring Europe, the musical has moved to the U.S.
Grammy nominee R&B singer Deborah Cox stars as Rachel in the US tour, with TV actor Judson Mills as Farmer. Chuck Norris fans will remember Mills as a hunky, handsome deputy in the series, “Walker, Texas Ranger.” And yes, it’s a non-singing role. Rachel’s jealous sister Nicki is played by Jasmin Richardson, and Jorge Paniaguar portrays the menacing stalker
The production differs from the film, in that it focuses more on the music of Whitney Houston than it does on the storyline. For the very few who have not seen the movie, “The Bodyguard” is a romantic thriller: crazed stalker threatens star, star hires bodyguard, bodyguard rescues star, star falls for bodyguard, and bodyguard falls for star.
Adapting Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 script, Alexander Dinelaris, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Birdman,” plays up the plot’s thriller aspects. A newly added subplot, involving Rachel’s sister and songwriting partner Nicki, also vying for Frank’s romantic attentions.
Critics are mixed about the musical, but fans are not. They just want to hear 16 Houston hits, including ‘How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” “Run to You,” “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and a certain smash single written by Dolly Parton, “I Will Always Love You.” In essence, the songs are the stars.
The Canadian-born star doesn’t disappoint. She began her recording career as a background singer with Celine Dion, before securing her first recording contract with Rock and Roll Hall of famer Clive Davis. Cox has an impressive list of #1 Billboard hit records, including twelve #1 songs on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart. Both under contract to Arista, in 2000, she collaborated with Whitney Houston to record the duet “Same Script Different Cast” for Houston’s Greatest Hits CD.
In 2004, Cox made her Broadway debut in the lead role in Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical, “Aida.” She also starred on Broadway in 2013 as Lucy in “Jekyll & Hyde” and as legendary Josephine Baker in “Josephine” at Asolo Repertory Theatre in 2016.
Among her many credits, Cox has collaborated with such artists as Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Kirk Franklin, BeBe Winans, Kenneth “Babyface Edmonds, Josh Groban, The Isley Brothers, Cyndi Lauper and numerous others.
Her platinum selling debut album “Deborah Cox” earned her an American Music Award nomination. She won her first of three Juno Awards including a Female Vocalist of the Year nomination. From her second CD “One Wish,” came the double platinum “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here” which held the record for being the longest running #1 R&B Single 14 consecutive weeks and earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination, a Soul Train Award, A Lady Of Soul Award, Best Female Vocalist Juno nomination and a Billboard Music Award Nomination for R&B Single Of The Year. Cox has also been honored for her longstanding commitment and efforts for the LGBT community.
Although the theater production of “The Bodyguard” has not been officially authorized by the Estate of Whitney Houston, pop music insiders believe that the she would be proud of Cox’s flawlessly and passionately renditions of Houston’s “greatest hits.”
It’s been almost 25 years since the film’s debut and almost six years since Houston left us. Yet her legacy endures. The musical adaptation of “The Bodyguard” uses more songs from the Houston oeuvre than were heard in the movie. As far as Whitney fans are concerned, Cox’s performance is a beautiful and loving homage to their beloved diva’s talent–gone all too soon.
The U.S. National tour of the musical “The Bodyguard” runs November 14-19 at the Paramount Theatre for only seven performances. Tickets start at $40, available on-line at STGPresents.org, Ticketmaster.com, by calling 1-800-745-3000 or in person at The Paramount Theatre Box Office (Monday through Friday, 10am to 6pm).
FYI: Deborah Cox will not perform in the 2pm matinee on Saturday, November 18th.
Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron
Judson Mills, as Frank Farmer
Jasmin Richardson as Rachel’s sister Nicki Marron
Jorge Paniagua as the Stalker
Tony Scibelli as Alex Corrado, Rachel’s personal security guard
Charles Gray as manager Bill Devaney
Jonathan Hadley as publicist Sy Spector
Mark McCollough Thomas as FBI agent Ray Court
Kevelin B. Jones III & Sebastian Maynard-Palmer alternate as Rachel’s son Fletcher
Elyssa Jo Brown (swing)
Willie Dee (swing)
Megan Elyse Fulmer
Sean Rozanski (swing)
Lauren Tanner (swing)
Naomi C. Walley
Director: Thea Sharrock
Set & costume design: Tim Hatley
Lighting design: Mark Henderson
Sound design: Richard Brooker
Video design: Duncan McLean
Choreography: Karen Bruce
Orchestrations: Chris Egan
Musical supervision: Richard Beadle
Production musical supervision: Mike Dixon
Musical director/conductor: Matthew Smedal
Producers: Michael Harrison, David Ian and Nederlander Presentations, Inc.