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‘The Bodyguard’ rocks Community Center Theater

Judson Mills and Deborah Cox star in "The Bodyguard."

“The Bodyguard,” now rocking the stage at the Community Center Theater, starts with a bang and ends with a rousing, glitzy encore befitting a superstar such as the one portrayed in the musical. Unfortunately, this upbeat addendum detracts somewhat from the bittersweet and more realistic ending of the romantic thriller.

Perhaps the producers didn’t want audiences to go home feeling melancholic.  They needn’t have worried about disappointing anyone, though, because the preceding two hours were nothing short of spectacular. With such familiar songs as “One Moment in Time,” “Saving All My Love for You,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and, of course, “I Will Always Love You,” how could the show not connect?

Loud, bright and colorful, the musical scenes practically assault the senses–as a pop- or rock star’s show ought to–and the dramatic scenes (often more dramatic than romantic) give a little time to breathe.

Based on Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 Oscar-nominated film, and adapted by Alexander Dinelaris (Oscar-winner for “Birdman”), “The Bodyguard”  tells the story of Frank Farmer, a former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, who is hired to protect music superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. She is headstrong and determined to have things her way; he is just as determined to keep her from harm, no matter if it often means telling her “no.” Both expect to have their way, but neither expects to fall in love–until they do. That’s when conflict really ensues.

Judson Mills, mostly known for TV acting roles, and Deborah Cox, a multi-platinum-selling R&B recording star and TV and film actress, star in the roles that were played in the 1992 film by Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, respectively. Interestingly–prophetically?–Cox and Houston collaborated in 2000 to record a duet, “Same Script Different Cast,” for Houston’s greatest hits collection.

Cox is a strong substitute for the late Houston, possessing an excellent voice and charismatic performance style. Mills doesn’t sing, except for comedic effect, but he projects an air of strength and dependability. Jasmin Richardson, who plays Nicki Marron (sister of Cox’s Rachel character) has a voice as strong and supple and maybe a shade deeper than Cox’s and delights in her few musical numbers. (Richardson is an understudy for the role of Rachel and is among three actresses from whom will be chosen one to perform the role in the Thursday and Saturday matinees. Audiences who get to see her in the lead role will not be disappointed.) Jorge Paniagua, a man of few words but menace aplenty, plays The Stalker.

“The Bodyguard: The Musical” (its official title) had its world premiere on Dec. 5, 2012 at London’s West End Adelphi Theatre. After a sold-out 16-month tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland, it returned for another successful West End run. This is the first United States national tour of the production.

Despite being presented under the Broadway Sacramento banner, “The Bodyguard” has not yet appeared on Broadway. That may be its goal, however, after this extended “out of town” tryout. The tentativeness of its program (musical numbers are listed but not necessarily in the order performed; there are no singers or characters identified as singing any of the songs; there is no information on scenes, locations, or time frames provided; and there are no photographs of the performers, which usually is a part of the playbill) suggests a certain uncertainty on the part of the producers.

“The Bodyguard” plays at 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (Cox is not scheduled to perform at either the Thursday or Saturday matinee). Tickets are $25-$97. The Community Center Theater is located at 1301 L St.

For tickets or for more information, call (916) 808-5181 or visit broadwaysacramento.com.

Photo by Joan Marcus

About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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