Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Critical Review student reviewer program gives Metro-area high school students the opportunity to attend and review touring Broadway productions, Spotlight Education events, workshops to develop writing skills and other opportunities depending on availability. Critical Review teaches communication skills and enhances critical thinking and creative response. As part of Critical Review, students receive study guides and press kits before the show, learn from experts including local theatre critics, playwrights and actors who teach workshops in lighting design to choreography, and in some cases, have expanded access to the Broadway touring cast and crew.
Students post their reviews and interact online through our Critical Review Clubhouse (online access is required for participation). Students are accepted through an application process.
This program is free of cost to participants thanks to the generous underwriting of Fred and Ann Moore.
Applications are now closed for the 2016-2017 Critical Review season.
JARRING MELODRAMA MEETS GREAT POP CONCERT by Noah Coon
The Bodyguard, a 1992 film, now joins the ranks of the countless other films which have been remodeled into musical extravaganzas for the stage. Originally starring Whitney Houston, the film follows pop star sensation Rachel Marron as she struggles to protect her family and herself from an assassin who leaves her mysterious and threatening letters. In order to do so, a new bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to tighten up security. Rachel feels that following his new protocol would mean giving up her freedom, while Frank stresses that his measures are necessary to protect her. Eventually, Frank and Rachel come to the realization that they must work together in order to overcome this obstacle.
The highlight of this production was by far the amazing vocal performances of the cast. In this production of The Bodyguard, the role of Rachel Marron is played by none other than the wonderful Deborah Cox. Not only does her portrayal of the pop star ring true and honest, but she has incredible vocals to back up her acting. She brings the ferocity and passion into each song. Similarly, her sister Nicki Marron (Jasmin Richardson) matches Cox’s performance creating an incredibly powerful dynamic between the two. Cox’s voice is very strong and driving, but Richardson’s has some lighter qualities that make it seem to float on each note as she sings. Another highlight of the show was Marron’s son Fletcher (Douglas Baldeo). While many of Baldeo’s scenes felt forced and waxy when watching them, all was forgiven the minute he started to perform the musical numbers. His voice rang out high and clear above many of the adults and he kept pace with them both vocally and physically. His dance steps were as polished and as sharp as anyone’s. This made him one of the show’s most memorable moments.
As a whole, The Bodyguard felt very balanced. The creators, designers, and cast did a fantastic job at creating a glamorous, high tech world for Rachel’s concerts while giving the audience a warm, homey vibe for other scenes. During the times Rachel was in her home, the lighting was fairly stagnant and onstage. The walls of her mansion were elegantly white. The space was large and grand, yet calm and soothing. In contrast, Rachel’s concerts were a chaotic cacophony of light, sound, and movement. The technicolor LED side panels framed Deborah as she sang her heart out amidst her perfectly trimmed back up dancers and glittery costumes. The sound waves produced by her and the musicians could be felt in the audience as the bass kicked in.
Whether you are a fan of melodramatic films or a musical theatre connoisseur, one thing is for certain, you will have a great time at this show! There are several moments that will literally have you dancing on your feet while singing along with the cast! As I left the theater the majority of the audience was still singing the last song and smiling as they did it. A positive sign of a job well done at any show.
A MILLION DOLLAR BILL PRODUCTION? by Elizabeth Donovan
Everyone loves Whitney Houston. But, for me, at least, even an iconic song list full of her greatest hits couldn’t save The Bodyguard. Playing at the Orpheum Theatre from January 10 through January 15, The Bodyguard tells the story of superstar Rachel Marron (Deborah Cox) and her newly appointed bodyguard Frank Farmer (Judson Mills) who was hired to protect her from a threatening stalker. The musical is based on the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston as Rachel Marron. Influences from the Hollywood film industry show through in choppy scene transitions and inconsistent tone which did not translate well to the stage, but brilliant musical performances kept the audience engaged.
Deborah Cox carried the show with her outstanding vocal performances. Her vocal stamina was especially noteworthy, considering the songs at the end of the show were just as energetic and vocally strong as those at the beginning of the show. Jasmin Richardson, who played Rachel’s sister Nikki, also delivered excellent vocal performances, but was not as consistent as Cox. Across the board, the acting lacked authenticity, but for the most part the actors did the best they could with a script that read more like a daytime soap opera than a traditional musical. The chemistry between Cox and Mills was painfully lacking, while the chemistry between Richardson and Mills was much stronger, making the direction that the plot took seem very unnatural. Rachel’s ten-year-old son Fletcher, played by Douglas Baldeo, ended up being my favorite character. Baldeo displayed unfailing energy and charisma that made him a standout.
Besides musical performances, the most exceptional aspect of the show from my perspective were the costumes. Deborah Cox, as well as many ensemble members, had what seemed like dozens of extremely effective quick changes. Each “concert” costume was stunning and unique. Many of the light and sound effects fit with the Hollywood drama style of the show. For example, it opened with a loud gunshot and flash to introduce Frank’s character. This style was generally off-putting for me, but much of the audience didn’t seem to mind.
In fact, the audience was incredibly enthusiastic, especially in the last scene when Cox invited everyone to sing along to “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, which I must admit was very fun (and, yes, I did sing along). The music was, of course, the greatest highlight of the show. Personally, it wasn’t enough to make up for the gaps that the stylization of a Hollywood drama left in this theatre production. If you’re a fan of cheesy romance movies and Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard would make for a fun evening out, but if you’re looking for a musical that presents noteworthy characters and plot, this just isn’t it.
DEAR THE BODYGUARD: NEXT TIME, SAVE YOURSELF FIRST by Delia Grimes
The Bodyguard, now playing at the Orpheum, lacks the musical’s inspiration, Whitney Houston’s, defining attribute: soul. There are times when a show with a disconnected plot, mediocre characters, and mainly lackluster musical numbers can still be enjoyable; maybe it is saved by one standout performer, or an exhilarating plot line. Unfortunately, The Bodyguard is not one of those shows- in fact, the closest it gets to being entertaining is the humor one may be able to find in how cheesy and underdeveloped it is. The Bodyguard is based on the movie of the same name starring Whitney Houston, and is famed for having the best selling soundtrack of all time. The story revolves around a sparkling diva/popstar, Rachel Marron (not so subtly based on Houston herself) who during a show one night has her dressing room snuck into and a threatening note left. This prompts her to increase her security and hire an ex-Secret Service member as a bodyguard. The plot follows Marron and her new bodyguard, Frank Farmer, as they form a romantic bond while also dealing with a disturbing stalker.
While stalkers, by nature, are terrifying, the nameless one in The Bodyguard is a little too much so. Although I didn’t find myself emotionally attached to the show itself, I was constantly on edge during it due to the way the stalker was used in the stagecraft. The main tactic to make the stalker scary was jumpscares: the show begins with loud gunshots that are never fully explained, and throughout the show the stalker nearly always appears in a sudden flash of light and with some sort of loud noise, which was a little too anxiety-inducing to be enjoyable. The fear behind the stalker character could be forgiven if there was a character arch involved, but instead he serves purely as a prop to drive Farmer and Marron together, and there is no conclusion regarding who the stalker really is or even his motivation.
Similarly, Nicki (Jasmin Richardson), Rachel’s sister, also seemed to be present purely as a plot point and had no character arc or real story. At least the stalker has a personality, but Nicki’s character randomly joins Marron in duets, leaving the audience confused. This, once again, had the potential to be saved: maybe Nicki has an exquisite voice? But alas, Richardson’s range leaves you wondering if the she was making mediocre musical choices or just plainly had a subpar vocals, leaving the character feeling shriveled up and lifeless.
The Bodyguard, overall, was a show that had so many opportunities to save itself–its creators could have eliminated some boring ballads, gotten rid of unnecessary plot points, and developed abandoned characters. Unfortunately, none of these opportunities were taken. Despite strong vocals on the part of the lead performer (Deborah Cox) and a set (created by Tim Hatley), that did a great job transforming from scene to scene in a creative way, with moving lightboxes that created a myriad of spaces, the overall effect was to leave the audience anxious, confused, and disappointed. Ms. Houston — and her loyal fans — deserve better.
JESUS LOVES ME (THIS MUSICAL LESS SO) by Nina Afremov
BODYGUARD BLUES by Sabrina Merritt
In a show that begins with gunshots and ends with glitter, the topsy turvy musical The Bodyguard, directed by Thea Sharrock, uses the pop hits of Whitney Houston to challenge to the typical dynamics of theatre. Based on the 1992 Whitney Houston film of the same name, Grammy nominated superstar Deborah Cox plays Rachel Marron, a popular singer whose life is put in danger after threats from a stalker. To combat this danger, the brooding Frank Farmer (Judson Mills) is hired as Marron’s bodyguard to protect her and her family. In such a show with a thriller plot, suspenseful action, and high energy performances The Bodyguard does leave audience in lively spirit. Yet, the show’s attempt to break the usual mold of theater productions sacrifices fulfilling storytelling.
As a leading lady, Deborah Cox is a marvelous performer. She struts and dances on stage surrounded by vibrant background dancers, and pulls at powerful emotions in the show’s moving numbers. Despite the dramatic plot’s high highs and low lows, Cox unfortunately does not demonstrate a wide acting ability and lacks chemistry with leading man Judson Mills. Mills, on the other hand, is able to show his capability of both a macho man and a kind heart, done through the mixture of almost film noir direction and the show’s uplifting scenes. Rachel’s sister Nicki Marron, played by Jasmin Richardson, personally stole the show for me. Her quips land and her voice shines. Richardson also has great chemistry with Mills, in the brief love triangle between Frank and the sisters. While these performances mostly excel in the production’s more intimate moments, when characters are put into peril by The Stalker (Jorge Paniagua), no threats feel particularly threatening. Even in moments of absolute danger, Cox’s Rachel is still-faced and continues to march onward with her plot.
The Bodyguard seeks to provide both a pop concert and cinematic experience in one musical. When Marron performs there are moving platforms, bright lights, and colorful costumes. Despite the plethora of adrenaline on stage, the audience is accustomed to sitting and applauding at the end of a number, and there seems to be a strange air as people wished they could act out normal concert etiquette. The production also makes use of video projections and dramatic sound clips, with video and sound design by Duncan McLean and Richard Brooker. These really influence the show to feel very movie-esque, which I believe is the show’s downfall. The show did not feel like live theatre, but like a movie, and it sadly, just did not work.
If audience members are fans of Houston’s music, or possibly the original movie, I would recommend this show. It is not bad, and I definitely enjoyed myself. There are fun numbers, shiny sets and costumes, and powerhouse vocals. But to me, the show’s unusual fluid format comprised the story, and it simply did not feel like a true theatrical performance. And that missing piece that was a nagging absent.
THE BODYGUARD FALLS SHORT by Eleanor Wilhelmi
After beginning its 2016-2017 season with three knockout shows in a row, the Orpheum theater seemed to be on something of a winning streak. Unfortunately, The Bodyguard, the latest installment, has broken that streak. With a muddy storyline and overall confusing stylistic choices, it fails to live up to its predecessors as a cohesive piece.
The Bodyguard chronicles the evolution of the complicated relationship between popstar Rachel Marron (Deborah Cox), who begins receiving invasive, threatening letters from a stalker (Jorge Paniagua), and professional bodyguard Frank Farmer (Judson Mills), who steps in to protect her from harm and catch the culprit.
The set design and flow is nothing new or radical, but the pre-show setup serves as a kind of precursor to the underwhelming act that follows; the entire stage is obstructed by a wall, on which the title is projected. There’s no effort made to evoke any kind of interest in you. That excited, impatient stirring in your stomach as you wait for the show to start is notably amiss, and a pallid indifference sits in its place as the stage unceremoniously slaps you in the face with the same image that’s on the cover of the playbill.
The Bodyguard’s most fatal flaw is its overall lack of clarity, which bleeds into every part of the show. During intermission, I heard other audience members around me trying to figure out what time period it was supposed to be set in. Despite the abundance of pop from the 80s and early 90s, the costumes contained an odd mix of fashion from the late 90s and early 2000s, while the technology the characters used wouldn’t fit in any time period other than the 2010s. There were many times I looked at the stage and found I couldn’t name half the characters or what purpose they served. It was distracting. Too many loose ends are left untied, too many questions unanswered, and any emotion the audience feels is clothed in a heavy overcoat of confusion.
As is the problem with many jukebox musicals, the songs in The Bodyguard don’t seem to have any real connection or relevance to the plot, as if they were just shoehorned into an unrelated story. To make matters worse, some of the shoehorning is downright lazy, the best example being a completely random, context-free performance of “I’m Every Woman” jammed between two serious scenes.
But, of course, it’s not all bad. The cast is composed of what are arguably the best singers the Orpheum has hosted thus far this season. Deborah Cox’s voice is reminiscent of stars like Tina Turner, Beyoncé, and, of course, Whitney Houston. Other highlights include Judson Mills, who seems to have found the perfect balance of likeability and gruff snark to play Frank, Jasmin Richardson’s beautiful, melancholy rendition of “Saving All My Love”, and Jorge Paniagua’s hauntingly realistic portrayal of the Stalker. The show-stopping, well-choreographed number just after the curtain call will have you standing in your seat and dancing like no one’s watching.
If you come to see The Bodyguard looking for a concert, you won’t be disappointed, but the same cannot be said for those looking to see a Broadway show.
THE BODYGUARD: A VERY NEW MUSICAL by Sam Irvin
Between the comic book aesthetic, the uptight dancers, and the subpar acting, Lawrence Kasdan and Alexander Dinelaris’ The Bodyguard failed to achieve the level of Whitney expected. Based on the film and featuring many Billboard hits made famous by artists such as Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson, this show follows a famous pop singer who is being stalked and her new bodyguard as they fall dangerously in love. The musical itself is cliche and still seems to have some kinks, which makes sense as this is the premiere of this show. Throughout the performance, I felt as though this was still a preview performance and after some research, discovered that this is the start of the national tour. Throughout the show, I forgot I was at a musical and believed I was at a tribute concert, which was not the experience I was expecting and left me feeling unfulfilled by the show.
Deborah Cox, as Rachel the star, stunned the audience with her renditions of the classic songs, her voice piercing through the auditorium with a clear, rich tone. Her rendition of “I Will Always Love You” is amazing and it becomes obvious why she got the part. Her voice might have been stellar, but her acting was so so. She took the script at face value and didn’t develop it enough to feel real. Frank Farmer, the bodyguard played by Judson Mills, was as bland as could be with every line read in a monotone voice and did not pique my interest. The stalker (Jorge Paniagua) was almost comedic with the sudden noises and light changes that surrounded his movements on stage, trying to create a mysterious effect, but not quite achieving this. Nikki, Rachel’s sister played by Jasmin Richardson, was absolutely stunning. Her voice has an impressive range and beautiful tone while her acting was true and believable. Any scene she is in immediately lights up. Overall, the ensemble seemed to move rigidly, but that should disappear with time, and their performances were entertaining.
The lights, sound, and overall technical performance was average, with spotlights not following the actors and mics turning off in the middle of lines. There were many times that the show was put on pause for scene changes and the large set distracted me anytime it moved. The videos they used in the background were unnecessary and weren’t in sync with the actors’ movements. But the costumes, especially Rachel’s dresses, were phenomenal, each one sparkling and dramatic. They complemented the concert scenes well and were designed effectively. Bravo Tim Hatley!
If you are looking for a fun, easy way to remember your favorite pop songs from the ‘70s, this is an enjoyable enough way to do it. If you are looking for a traditional musical theatre experience, this is definitely not the show to see. Whatever your goal, be prepared for a night of song and dance mixed with a feel good story. It sure does start with a bang!
THE BODYGUARD! by Thomas Bertron
The 1992 romantic thriller film, The Bodyguard, has been adapted into a stage musical featuring the iconic songs of Whitney Houston! Thats right, The Bodyguard musical by Alexander Dinelaris is playing right here in Minneapolis at the Orpheum though January 15th. Part drama and part concert, the show follows entertainer Rachel Marron (Deborah Cox) as she seeks protection from an unknown stalker. Hired as Marron’s full time bodyguard is none other than Frank Farmer (Judson Mills). As Rachel and Frank’s relationship grows beyond what is professionally accepted, Rachel’s safety becomes compromised.
The iconic songs, popularized by Whitney Houston, really shine though in the fast paced plot line. Leading the company is Deborah Cox, who’s voice did not disappoint. In fact, Cox’s precise vocal balance and quality really highlighted the beauty and heart of the music. The voices of Jasmin Richardson, who portrayed Nikki Marron, and Deborah Cox really complimented each other in “Run To You”. Supporting the skillful Cox and Richardson was a diverse and equally talented ensemble who executed the intense and demanding choreography, by Karen Bruce, beautifully and seamlessly. As for the acting elements, I experienced nothing but authentic and real performances by the entire cast. There wasn’t a moment throughout the two and a half hour production where I felt the performers were anticipating unforeseen events.
As for the technical elements, there were numerous instances where I became distracted and felt taken out of the story. The show’s set, designed by Tim Hatley, utilized simple paneling which moved to create somewhat complicated ‘frames’ around the proscenium depending on the location. Although the design of the paneling was minimal and easy on the eyes, the movement and realignment of the panels became excessive and distracting. Supporting the set were very fake appearing projections, designed by Duncan Mclean, that seemed over coordinated and edited, which easily took me out of the moment. The lighting and sound design by Mark Henderson and Richard Brooker were very effective at setting the tone of each scene and foreshadowing future events. There were multiple instances where the actors, lights, and sound worked together flawlessly to create a sense of tension and fear throughout the theatre. My biggest problem with the production was the fact that there were moments when actors pointed guns at the audience, at one point an actor walked down the aisle with a gun pointed. Although not a huge part of the show, it added an extra layer of unneeded fear which left me feeling extremely uncomfortable and uneasy. In the world we live in today, I feel the creative team took a big risk with that artistic choice.
At this point you’re probably wondering what my overall verdict on The Bodyguard is. This is defiantly a unique show that combines many different genres of theatre into one making it a definite must see for those looking for a unique and thrilling experience. If anything, the talent of Deborah Cox and the iconic Whitney Houston ballads should be enough to get you out to the Orpheum this weekend!
1992 REINVENTED by Anika Besst
An ear splitting gun shot sends a hush through the audience as the words ‘The Bodyguard’ projected on a screen shatter into a million digital gold pieces. As the screen rises the audience enters a world of terror masked by the glamour of being famous. The Bodyguard, which is launching its U.S. National Tour at the Orpheum January 10-15, 2017 is based on the 1992 movie of the same name about the relationship between Rachel Marron, played by Whitney Houston, a diva facing a stalker, and Kevin Costner as Frank Farmer, the bodyguard hired to protect her. It showcases some of the most iconic songs in music history such as “I Will Always Love You”, and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
Some of the most iconic musicals are packed with full-cast numbers where every actor knows all lyrics and dances magically, but this production is like watching a movie since it consists of more intimate songs that seem to be created naturally. I credit part of the authenticity to the production’s contemporary look, such as including cellphones, name brand clothes, and logos which made it even more relatable, like it was a story based off a news headline.
I appreciated how clearly the designers for set and costume (Tim Hatley), video (Duncan McLean), and lighting (Mark Henderson) all worked toward a common goal in order to create this reality. One way they had such a real effect was by using digital technology to instigate fear in audience members, like when onstage actors would be discussing the stalker while a video of him projected onto a screen larger than life reminding me of the Wizard of Oz’s head tormenting Dorothy and her friends. This technique was not only used to create fear, but also as a portal into a character’s thoughts or imagination altering how the audience perceived each character.
I found myself most entertained by the ensemble. Not only were they talented dancers, but they also demonstrated distinct character development. Whether as Rachel’s back-up dancers or another role, they were believable and played into the reality the show created. One of the best laughs in the show is the scene where Rachel and Frank go out to a bar and see three college girls singing to one of Rachel’s songs in a tipsy manner. For the whole scene following those girls look as if they were plucked out of any bar. I was a little let down by Deborah Cox playing Rachel Marron who seemed to take awhile warming up to the audience. Her solo songs hooked the audience’s attention with her show-stopping voice utterly flawless with no form of break. However the numbers were filled with awkwardly literal hand gestures as she just stood there. Though this may have been natural it was uncomfortable to watch since it felt forced. This may be attributable to opening night jitters so Cox may warm to the role and be more comfortable.
With an unique contemporary spin on the iconic movie, The Bodyguard transports the audience into a thrilling story that shows the a reality of stardom. Though at times it felt awkward and disconnected, the technical elements helped smooth out any rough patches. Whether you’re a fan of the music or not, it clicks as well as it did 1992.
WHERE DO BROKEN SHOWS GO? by Devyn Terry
The Bodyguard is a jukebox musical featuring songs by Whitney Houston. It was adapted from the 1992 movie of the same name into a musical created by Alexander Dinelaris and orchestrated by Chris Egan. Rachel Marron (played by Deborah Cox), the superstar singer, has been receiving notes from a stalker, so her agent hires a bodyguard, Frank Farmer (played by Judson Mills). The relationship between them develops from the initial battle over who is in charge, to full-blown romance.
The show started with a bang as the audience gasped at an assassin standing over his victim. The shocking first scene transitioned into an extremely loud and overly flashy rock concert starring Rachel. The stage lights were made a visible part of the set to look like, well, lights at a rock concert. Later, the set transformed into the kitchen of the Marron household – a spacious cooking area in a white mansion with high ceilings. Further downstage there were giant panels that outlined the kitchen, like a giant picture frame. Those panels moved around throughout the production, to showcase different rooms in the house. Sometimes they would close completely to function like a stage curtain or to be a movie screen. A surprising amount of screen entertainment is used in The Bodyguard – Rachel, Frank, and the others at the mansion would be doing their daily things as the audience sees the stalker making preparations on the screen behind the performers. It was as if the stalker was looming over everyone. However, at one point the stalker was onstage packing a bag while he was also on the screen doing the same thing, which kind of undid the effect because he was basically looming over himself. The stalker (played by Jorge Paniagua) becomes more and more of a threat as the show goes on. There was a number of jump scares, that always arrived with the signature sound that accompanied the stalker. Paniagua absolutely nailed the creepiness factor, from the inflections in his speech to the way he moved his body.
The plot was cliche and predictable – star falls in love with her bodyguard, the sister is jealous, a visit to a cabin in the middle of nowhere while a stalker is on the loose. . . but the production was well executed. Karen Bruce’s choreography featured lots of lifts. Deborah Cox’s vocals were spectacular and just got better and better as the show went on. Rachel Marron’s sister, Nicki, played by Jasmin Richardson, had an equally amazing voice that she showed off in “Saving All my Love.” Many of the songs were beautiful ballads, but they slowed down the musical a lot. But, if you’re a Whitney Houston fan, seeing The Bodyguard would be a fun way to spend an evening in Minneapolis.
DEBORAH COX IS THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT by Kate Lawless
If you’re really wishing you could’ve seen a Whitney Houston concert, the next best thing you can get now is seeing The Bodyguard. It’s a dramatic love story, where all-business bodyguard, Frank Farmer (Judson Mills) is assigned to protect bossy popstar Rachel Marron from a stalker, who threatens to kill her at the height of her career. They predictably fall in love, but Rachel’s career and Frank’s job interfere with their relationship.
Modeled after the 1992 movie starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, the musical plot doesn’t completely match the film. It’s honestly more like someone decided to intersperse overly dramatic or dramatically underwhelming scenes between songs made famous by Whitney Houston, than a true Broadway musical, where the music was written to convey the story. It is comparable to Mama Mia, except The Bodyguard is much less dependent on having an impressive array of amazing minor characters and the music doesn’t always completely match what’s happening in the plot.
Firstly, a warning: the show starts with a gunshot and the lights all suddenly go out. In a time when random shootings seem to become more frequent, this was very startling. After that initial moment of shock, the show coasts on Deborah Cox’s powerhouse vocals. She really shows off her vocal skill on I Have Nothing and All The Man That I Need. Cox has got the ambitious, controlling diva attitude down, but her moments with her son, Fletcher (Douglas Baldeo), don’t have the same ring of authenticity. Each scene is punctuated with a fun dance number or a power ballad, sung by either Rachel, her sister Nikki (Jasmin Richardson), and far too occasionally, Fletcher. Baldeo is a triple threat: he’s adorable, a great dancer, and can sing well enough to steal the attention away from his character’s mother for a while.
Judson Mills obviously tried to create a strong and silent version of Frank Farmer, but mostly came across as stiff. His only redeeming moment is his intentionally awful rendition of I Will Always Love You, which Frank performs for Rachel on their first date. The chemistry between Cox and Mills is barely existent. I found myself rooting for Frank to end up with Nikki, rather than Rachel.
The rest of the minor characters don’t make much of an impression, other than one scene where three ridiculously drunk girls sing a karaoke version of Where Do Broken Hearts Go. The ensemble women are incredible dancers and actresses, but aren’t showcased nearly enough. When they do get to show off during dance numbers, the show becomes magical, like theatre theatre is supposed to feel, when everyone on stage and in the audience is feeling the music. The curtain call is the best example of this synergy. The entire cast comes out to stand or dance a safe distance behind superstar Deborah Cox, as she sings I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and even graciously allows Baldeo and Richardson to sing a couple lines. Unfortunately, The Bodyguard feels more like The Deborah Cox Show than a musical, romantic thriller. Don’t get me wrong, Cox is one of the best singers I’ve heard come through the Orpheum, but a musical should not completely hinge on one performer.
WHEN CURTAIN CALL IS THE BEST PART OF THE SHOW by Larissa Miles
More often than not, musicals and plays are based off of a popular book, television show, or movie. These types of shows bank on having a pre-existing audience, but many, however, often come across lazily done and are in need of a lot of refinement. The Bodyguard, directed by Thea Sharrock and based on the 1992 film of the same name starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, is unfortunately one of those shows. The strong cast of performers did the best with what they could, but the material they were given didn’t exactly allow for the best production. The show is filled with potential, but lacks quality work on the composition side of things. In fact, the best part of the show is curtain call, after everything in the show is concluded, when the company sings the iconic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”. The entire audience was on their feet singing and dancing during this moment. It was the most engaged the audience was the entire night; had that same feeling of engagement been felt throughout the entire show, the production would have been stellar.
The main problem with the show stems from the book. Many Jukebox musicals have an issue connecting a well developed plot to the famous songs of the show. The premise of The Bodyguard is incredibly intriguing. A famous singer is being stalked by a crazed fan so a bodyguard is hired to protect her, but they end up falling in love. On paper it works, but on stage, it’s messy. The show tries to cram as many famous songs into the show as it can, and thus several plot points are neglected and are never really tied up. Both a kidnapping and murder subplot are glossed over. Act II is filled with several ballads. So many that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between them. The staging during these ballads is disinteresting, with the actress just standing in place the whole time. Had there not been strong leading performers, the show would have been even more boring.
Deborah Cox led the cast as the famous singer Rachel Marron, and her singing was far superior to her acting. Her acting wasn’t bad, but it was evident that she was acting. Her singing came naturally, however. She closed the show with an amazing rendition of “I Will Always Love You”, filled with so much emotion that the audience was on their feet before she finished the song. What Cox lacked in acting, Judson Mills made up for. Mills portrayed Frank Farmer, the titular Bodyguard hired to protect Rachel. He was both comedic and endearing, showing off his versatility as an actor.
The most interesting part of the musical was the stalker plotline. Any moment regarding the stalker was suspenseful and elicited strong reactions from the audience. This was in thanks to Jorge Paniagua, who played The Stalker. Paniagua’s portrayal was steadfast and so precise that he was booed during curtain call. He was able to convince the audience of his evilness so well that even when the show was “over”, they still believed he was a horrible person.
It’s unfortunate that such a strong cast had little to work with in terms of material. While it could use some polishing, the production is no doubt entertaining. The show is a thriller, but still ends with an incredible energy that just makes you wanna dance with somebody.
The Bodyguard is playing at the Orpheum until Sunday, January 15th.
JUKEBOX FLOP by Madilyn Duffy
On numerous occasions in the last year shows have left me in awe by the time the curtain closed for the final time at the end of the night. I have been in tears, I have been smiling ear to ear, I have been clapping so hard my hands hurt, but I have never felt what I did at the end of The Bodyguard. I felt bored. It grieves me to put such a descriptor on a show, but there was no way around it. The show, try as it might to be a fresh look on a classic film, was boring.
It had so much potential. Although no one can live up to the late great Whitney Houston, Deborah Cox certainly gave her a run for her money. With stunning vocals from both Cox (playing Rachel Marron) and Jasmin Richardson (playing Nicki Marron), I expected nothing short of a spectacle when the first jump scare began the show and I was shocked into my seat. Sadly, the life and energy that was exhibited within the first scene died by the time the second scene began. Although I can argue for giving the show the benefit of the doubt due to the fact that it was opening night on the first night of their tour, that fact does not help the major plot holes within the script itself. The show did what nearly every “Jukebox Musical” ends up doing in an attempt to draw in a larger audience with their well known songs: they sacrificed plot in order to cram more songs into an act. Now, the lack of plot I can understand. There are many famous songs out that have to be placed in the show. The lack of energy and chemistry between the two main characters (myself and the person sitting next to me did not realize they were supposed to be dating and falling in love until the second act) I can also understand. It could have been an off night, or once again tied to the lack of plot. The only thing that really grinds my gears about this show is the fact that every song after intermission is a ballad. Once the ballads start, it is hard to differentiate between each one, and even the names of the songs are hard to pick out because they all start to blend together. The content of the songs just barely match with the scene at hand, and seem to be the only way the writers could think of to further the plot. The show relied on jump scares and bass drops to keep the audience awake. There was little movement, and the best choreography was in the scene where Rachel’s stalker almost got to her on the stage. Jorge Paniagua played the stalker, and he had the most impressive acting of the characters. All of the other lines seemed rehearsed and similar to a bad sitcom, but he did not have any lines and embodied the creepy, obsessive killer in the best way possible.
The set, however, was beautiful. Moving columns that light up to set the size and place of the scene worked well with the concert scenes and added drama to the stage. Tim Hatley, the set and costume designer, was the star of the show. I was able to spend a majority of the show focused on the set and lights due to the lack of movement during many of the scenes on stage. The costumes glittered in just the right way, and the lights managed to capture the vibe of a true concert on the theater stage.
The Bodyguard runs through Sunday, January 15th. If you choose to go see it, see it for the classic R&B vocals and stalker/serial killer plotline. Let me know if it improves from opening night.
- To develop and enhance critical thinking, self-expression and analytical writing skills
- To provide a unique and engaging forum for students learning outside of the classroom
- To provide high school students the opportunity to develop an appreciation for live theatre
Elements of the Program
- Participants see up to eight live theatre performances, often touring Broadway productions, at the Orpheum, State, Pantages or New Century Theatres and write reviews
- Opportunity to review press materials provided to the professional media
- Workshops with professionals in the theatre and journalism fields
- Tour of one of the Trust’s Historic theatres
- Student reviews posted on the Hennepin Theatre Trust website and SpotLight’s Critical Review reviewer site
What participants are saying:
“I LOVE Critical Review so much! Going to see all of those plays was so amazing. I really appreciate what the program has done for me.”
-Diamond Billinger, Critical Review student
“Fiddler on the Roof is one of the best performances I have seen this year, tied with Wicked and Spring Awakening. There is no one better than Chaim Topol to tell the classic story of family hardship and change.”
-Sara Sommers, Critical Review student
“I have loved Rent ever since I saw the movie. Being able to see the stage version with two of the original cast members was beyond amazing. It was so much fun and definitely an experience I’ll always remember.”
-Alicia Battle, Critical Review student