WAKEFIELD, RI — “The Bodyguard: The Musical” has a lot going for it, especially the performances and the style of the production — and of course there are the Whitney Houston songs, which include stirring ballads and up-tempo dance tunes.
Based on the hit 1992 movie which starred Houston and Kevin Costner, this version, with a book by Alexander Dinelaris and music direction by Nathan Urdangen, more or less follows the same outline.
Superstar diva Rachel Marron is being threatened by a stalker (Kyle Braun), so her security team decides to hire a bodyguard, Frank Farmer.
Rachel is wary of Frank’s presence at first and resists his efforts to keep her from going out in public, but she gradually begins to warm to him.
Theatre By The Sea has always done a terrific job casting their shows, and this one is no exception.
Jenay Naima is tremendously charismatic as Rachel. She’s vibrant, sexy, and sings these beloved songs with conviction.
Robb Sherman does a good job playing Frank, who is wary of getting personally involved with the woman he is trying to protect. Sherman is stoic, focused, and exudes some vulnerability when he shares a tragedy in his past.
Naima and Sherman have a sizzling chemistry together and their romance takes flight in an amusing scene set in a karaoke bar, when Frank butchers “I Will Always Love You.”
LaDawn Taylor gives a magnificent supporting performance as Rachel’s sister Nicki. Taylor takes what could have been a throwaway role and injects some psychological depth into the character.
Nicki has always lived in Rachel’s shadow. She is a singer and has held a long simmering resentment of Rachel’s success. Nicki confides in Frank and reveals a shocking secret (which I will not spoil). I only wish there had been a moment when Nicky had told Rachel about her feelings. That would’ve provided some real drama.
Director/choreographer Christopher Campbell maintains a quick pace and handles the thriller elements quite well. A climactic sequence at the Oscars is suspenseful and it’s truly creepy to see Rachel’s stalker gazing at a huge collage of photographs on a wall.
There’s also an unsettling moment when the stalker encounters Rachel’s young son Fletcher (a charming Emjay Roa).
The main appeal of “The Bodyguard” is the music and the exuberance of the singers and dancers.
Naima gave powerhouse renditions of “I Will Always Love You” and “I Have Nothing.” Sitting behind a piano, her rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” was elegant and polished.
Taylor provided superior vocals on “Saving All My Love for You” and “All at Once.”
The glitzy dance performances included energetic versions of Houston classics such as “Queen of the Night,” “I’m Every Woman,” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Katie Whittemore’s imaginative lighting design and the spectacular costumes by Alexander Cole Gottlieb and James Nguyen added to the high quality of the production.
Whitney Houston was a legendary entertainer and possessed one of the best voices of all time. Her legacy has been honored by everyone associated with “The Bodyguard.”
The Bodyguard runs through Aug. 5. The theatre is located at 364 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield, RI. Tickets are available online 24-hours-a-day at www.theatrebythesea.com and via telephone during normal box office hours by calling (401) 782-TKTS (8587).
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