“The Bodyguard” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – November 29, 2017


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

There are many reasons why a second-rate tour of a London show that hopes to be a Broadway musical doesn’t work.  “The Bodyguard,” based on the popular 1992 Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner movie, is a dud.  It debuted in London and is now touring America with hopes of landing in New York.  Chances of “The Bodyguard” passing Broadway critics and audiences high standards are impossible.  The tour is part of the local ASU Gammage Broadway series.

The sloppily produced show is filled with tacky sets, uncreative costuming, and Thea Sharrock’s ploddingly slow-paced staging that never catches fire.  Starring Deborah Cox as vocalist Rachel Marron, the singer possesses the vocal stamina to croon the trademarked Houston tunes but Cox never makes the songs her own as she stops at trying without success to duplicate the original star’s superior vocal and acting gifts.  Cox fails most in not delivering any characterization of the music superstar she portrays.  Cox’s one-dimensional acting sputters as the show proves Cox is not destined to transition from a singing career to Broadway stardom.

The musical’s story duplicates the movie and features the well-known pop/rock score that is filled with such Houston hits as “I Wanna Dance With Someone,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “So Emotional” among the 16 included songs.  A sure sign of the show’s failure is a post-performance explosion of the show’s pop hits conveyed with splashy choreography and glaringly bright lights.  This elaborate finale gives audiences something positive at the conclusion of a meandering musical theater failure.

The mundane sets and the glamour-less costumes compete with the pokey staging to doom the production.  The male lead, the title character that guards star Marron, has Judson Mills desperately trying to clone Costner, a feat he fails miserably.  Only Jasmin Richardson, playing Rachel’s talented sister Nicki, approaches a competent performance.  Richardson plays Rachel at two performances each week.

“The Bodyguard” comes to town as the third show in the local Broadway season and plays after two strong productions of superior musicals.  The thoughtful “Fun Home” and the riotous “Something Rotten” were Broadway caliber productions.

The poor quality of “The Bodyguard” is no doubt why ASU Gammage chooses to refuse press tickets to some local critics.  One wonders what Broadway’s Tony Awards Committee would think of the only Arizona Tony voter, ASU Gammage’s impresario, who refuses local critics press seats.  “The Bodyguard” continues through Sunday, December 3.  For “The Bodyguard” tickets, contact Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: D