Thursday, February 22, 2018

CT Theater Review: The Bodyguard -- The Bushnell

Deborah Cox and Judson Mills. Photo: Joan Marcus 

The Bodyguard
Adapted by Alexander Dinelaris from the film by Lawrence Kasdan
Choreography by Karen Bruce
Directed by Thea Sharrock

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The Olivier-winning musical based on the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston, whose catalog of songs highlight the story of bodyguard Frank Farmer (Judson Mills), hired to protect superstar singer Rachel Marron, who is being stalked by a threatening fan (a very creepy Jorge Paniagua). The night I attended Jasmin Richardson filled in for Deborah Cox in the role of Rachel. Richardson plays the role regularly at Saturday matinees and Sunday evening performances. You won't miss the star. Richardson is sensational.

In the book, adapted by Alexander Dinelaris,, based on Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay, Frank gets involved on a personal level with Rachel and her young son, Fletcher (the role is share by Kevelin B. Jones III and Sebastian Maynard-Palmer), which complicates the bodyguard's ability to protect the singer. Actually, the plot is rather weak and Frank seems like the worst bodyguard ever. Besides getting personally involved with his client, the stalker somehow manages to threaten Fletcher in his bedroom, attack Rachel's sister, Nikki (also an understudy the night I attended, DeQuina Moore) who has her own feelings for Frank and jealousy issues with Rachel. Oh, and the stalker also manages to trail the bodyguard and her family to what Frank believes is a safe house. And, oh yeah, Frank doesn't notice when a hard-to-get backstage pass goes missing. Hire me another bodyguard, please.

The story, really, is just a mechanism for performing some great Whitney Houston songs under the Musical Direction of Matthew Smedal with vibrant choreography by Karen Bruce. The music fits naturally into the story of a musical legend performing concerts and in night club settings designed by Tim Hatley, who also designs the costumes. Duncan McLean's projection design, Mark Henderson's hard-to-take flashing lights and  Richard Brooker's very loud sound (you will jump out of your seat at one point. . .) help the audience feel the concert atmosphere.

What Are the Highlights?
Richardson's soaring voice and songs like "How Will I Know?," Greatest Love of All," "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." and "I Will Always Love You."

Mills' karaoke rendition of "I Will Always Love You" is a hoot.

What are the Lowlights?
Covered above.

More information:
The Bodyguard plays at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, through Feb. 25. Performances are Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm.; Saturday at 2and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm. Ticket ar $43-$119:; 860-987-5900.

Additional casting:
Adam Barabáš, Elyssa Jo Brown, Henry Byalikov, Megan Elyse Fulmer, Devinn Harris, Alex Jackson, Megan Melville, Kevin Mylrea, Stefan Raulston, Matthew Schmidt, Amber Snow, Lauren Tanner, and Naomi C. Walley.

Additional credits:
Orchestrations by Chris Egan, Musical Supervision by Richard Beadle, Production Musical Supervision by Mike Dixon.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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