Be forewarned: this show starts with a bang. (That’s not hyperbole.)
"The Bodyguard," a stage musical adaptation of the 1992 film classic by the same name, is at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit through Jan. 28.
For a show like this to work, it must get a standout performance from its lead. The character of Rachel Marron was played memorably on screen by Whitney Houston. The film soundtrack still stands as far and away the highest-selling soundtrack album of all time because its songs touch the soul and Whitney was at the top of her game.
So it’s not an easy position to be in having to even attempt to replicate that legendary voice. Thankfully, stage veteran Deborah Cox more than holds her own.
A platinum-selling recording artist herself, Cox is unafraid of the lofty vocal requirements. She kicks off the evening with the explosive "Queen of the Night," overcoming any audience concerns that this role is too demanding for anyone not named Whitney.
The hits just keep on coming. Cox owns the stage with crowd favorites "I'm Every Woman" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." Fisher playgoers even sang along at times, continuing the age-old debate of whether or not it is appropriate to do so. (I say that you pay big bucks to hear the actual professionals handle the singing, but maybe I’m just a 34-year-old curmudgeon.)
Cox brings down the house with her rendition of "I Have Nothing." Close your eyes and you might even convince yourself that 1992 Whitney Houston has entered the building.
However, when "The Bodyguard" flips to any scene not involving a musical number, the pace slows. Granted, it's no small task taking a big-screen thriller and trying to cram it into a theater stage. No longer do you have the pulse-pounding car chases, boat explosions, and the like. But thankfully in this show, the next knockout song is never more than a few minutes away.
Another gem is "Saving All My Love," sung by Jasmin Richardson in the role of Marron's sister, Nikki. While the film version of the character is more manic and unhinged, Richardson takes a more subdued approach. It works. The gifted Richardson makes her presence felt in a number of key scenes, allowing Cox to get a slight breather before her next power ballad.
It’s only natural to draw certain comparisons between the film and musical. Thus, it is a bit deflating to see the part of bodyguard Frank Farmer, played with charm and nuance by Kevin Costner in 1992, not quite receiving the same treatment here. Judson Mills (this version's Frank) tries in earnest to give the character some depth or feeling, but unfortunately, it comes off a little on the wooden side. While Costner's performance was steely, it was sprinkled with humor and emotion. Mills isn't quite able to pull those same traits from his Frank Farmer.
At the end of the evening, this show is all about those iconic Whitney Houston songs. Sure, the plot can feel predictable and the ending a bit rushed. But when Deborah Cox emerges center stage to crush another Houston classic, all else is forgiven; and for just a moment, you are transformed to 1992, relishing in the sounds of a legendary American songstress at the absolute height of her powers.
How to attend:
- When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 7:30 p.m. Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Jan. 28.
- Cost: $39 to $130.
- Tickets: At Fisher box office or Ticketmaster.