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A CurtainUp NJ Review
The Bodyguard

You don't look like a bodyguard. — Rachel
What'd you expect? — Frank
I dont know. Someone bigger... — Rachel
This is my disguise... — Frank

Deborah Cox and Judson Mills with members of cast (Matthew Murphy)
There was a fairly credible excuse for making the 1992 film The Bodyguard as it starred and showcased the extraordinary voice of pop icon Whitney Houston. Her enormous popularity in the latter part of the 20th century insured the film's commercial success despite the zero chemistry she had with her co-star Kevin Costner. There is a less credible excuse, however, for the sorry mess that is the stage version. The musicals book is by Alexander Dinelaris who based it on the original and even more ludicrous screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan.

The stage version is filled with the hit songs that Houston sang and an array of production adornments. Blasts of gun fire, bursts of smoke and flashing strobe lights are deployed with gusto in the video-enhanced rising and gliding settings designed by Tim Hatley (who also designed the gorgeous costumes.) All this under the eye-assaulting lighting by designer Mark Henderson,

This semi-juke box show is unfortunately the victim of almost the same ridiculous doings of the film. The show starts off with a bang (literally) and continues to follow the life-threatening perils of a singer Rachel Marron (Deborah Cox) on her journey from one insufferable situation to the next, with a finale at the Academy Awards Ceremony. This, as she is being stalked by a nameless (Jorge Paniagua) psycho with killer abs. (Jorge Paniagua.) Let's say his gifted torso is duly noted.

Rachel, a beautiful but bitchy diva with maternal instincts, is also ripe for hanky-panky with hunky Frank (Judson Mills) the stone-faced robotic bodyguard hired to protect her. Frank's effort in this case is as pitiful as is his attempt to sing in a scene in a Karaoke bar that gives the plot some humor, intentional or not. Ms Cox has the primary vocal assignments and she is terrific. Her voice soars, swoops and stirs up the audience as it must in a show as otherwise as lame as is this one.

Cox, who is a Grammy Award-nominated and multi-platinum R & B pop recording artist and actress, brings her own expressive style to the mostly familiar songs that, as far I could tell, have virtually nothing whatever to do with or say about the situations in which her character finds herself.

A nice surprise is the affecting performance and fine singing of Jasmin Richardson as Rachel's also beautiful but condescended to sister Nicki. She wows us with a searing "Saving All My Love" — luckily before she gets bumped off. I also liked the spiffy performing by young Douglas Baldeo as Rachels dancing son Fletcher.

Under the accommodating direction of Thea Sharrock, The Bodyguard has its best moments after the plot has been put to rest and the cast returns after the first curtain call to whoop it up with a sung and danced medley that almost makes you forget what we've had to endure to get to this (as the song tells it) "One Moment in Time."

The Bodyguard opened to mixed reviews in London last season.(our London critic's review which includes a musical numbers list It embarks on a national tour following its engagement at the Paper Mill Playhouse. A Broadway destination is anticipated if not yet confirmed by the producing Nederlanders. No doubt that fans will swoon and sway hoot and holler to the music as they will most likely also scorn the critics. So be it.

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The Bodyguard
Book by Alexander Dinelaris from the original Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan.
Directed by Thea Sharrock
Cast of Principals: Judson Mills (Frank Farmer), Deborah Cox (Rachel Marron), Charles Gray (Bill Devaney), Alex Corrado (Tony Scibelli), Jorge Paniagua (The Stalker), Douglas Baldeo and Kevelin B. Jones III, alternating the role of Fletcher), Jasmin Richardson (Nicki Marron), Jonathan Hadley (Sy Spector).
Set and Costume Designer: Tim Hately
Lighting Designer: Mark Henderson
Video Designer: Duncan Mclean
Sound Designer: Richard Brooker
Production Musical Supervisor & Vocal Arrangements: Mike Dixon
Orchestrations & Additional Music: Chris Egan
Associate Director: Frank Thompson
Musical Supervisor: Richard Beadle
Associate Choreographer: Amy Thornton
Musical Director: Matthew Smedal
Production Stage Manager: Melissa Chacon
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, N.J.
(973) 376 - 4343
Tickets: $32.00 - $123.00
Performances: Wednesday at 7:30pm, Thursday at 1:30pm and 7:30pm, Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 1:30pm and 8:00pm and Sunday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm.
From 11/25/16 Opened 12/04/16 Ends 01/01/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 12/05/16

NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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