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  • Nate Adams

'The Bodyguard' review: Amazing cast lights up The Croswell stage


Courtesy of The Croswell Opera House

 

Regardless of what people remember about the era in which “The Bodyguard,” the 1992 smash starring Kevin Costner and, of course, Whitney Houston at the height of their stardom, was released, the movie itself wasn’t very good. It had a clunky narrative, jumbled execution, and could’ve used another pass on the screenplay. But Costner and Houston had immaculate chemistry and the soundtrack featured touchstones like “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” and “I Will Always Love You” that sort of made you forgive the melodramatic tendencies baked into Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay. 


It was a colossal hit and has only grown in popularity over the years, in part because parents are sharing it with their children, but the untimely passing of Houston has cemented the film as a relic. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons playwright Alexander Dinelaris felt the need to adapt it as a musical, but his script falls into the same trap a majority of movie-to-musical adaptations end up in: some of the elements don’t always translate from screen-to-stage. 


So then the herculean task of ensuring the audiences have a memorable evening, despite the narrative shortcomings, falls onto the cast and creative crew and they deserve mighty praise. In this case, and considering his vast resume that includes national tours and years of vocal teaching, director (and vocal/musical director) Michael Yuen feels like the equivalent of an Oscar winner coming in and putting his own stamp on a piece of cherished IP and elevating it beyond the limitations of the page. That’s what good directors do. 


For example, and without giving anything away, there’s a sequence midway through the show involving the antagonist that himself and choreographer Sarah Nowak molded into an ingenious and creatively thrilling set-piece that, in the wrong hands, might’ve whiffed. Here, it’s some of the best blocking I’ve seen at The Croswell. You’ll know when you see it. 


It also doesn’t hurt they’ve brought in professional actress Arielle Crosby for the gigantic role of Rachel Marron, a character whom we’re told has amassed 6 grammys, numerous number #1 hits, and is on the brink of winning an Oscar. With those accolades in your corner, the show lives or dies based on her casting and Crosby is a stunner. Her voice acts as a gravitational pull and knocks you out. Since the script isn’t filled with huge dance numbers, it means Nowak and Yuen have to rely on characters, essentially, standing in place and singing out to the audience without all the spectacle folks usually expect from a Croswell production. 


And that’s ok. There’s actually something poetic about seeing Crosby and her co-star Anjewel Lenoir, who is equally as sensational, playing Rachel’s sister Nicki, letting their soothing vocals outshine what Dinelaris' script is severely lacking. The two of them singing the show stopping duet “Run to You” is worth the price of admission alone. 


As for the story, it’s pretty much exactly as you’d remember, a great Steven Kiss takes on the role of Frank Farmer (aka the bodyguard), who is tasked with protecting Rachel after an incident with a stalker leaves her security detail flummoxed. What starts as a contentious, professional relationship (he doesn’t want to take the gig at first), slowly morphs into something deeper and romantic. He even strikes up a chummy, fatherly relationship with Rachel’s son, Fletcher (King Brinson - a sixth grader making his Croswell debut and someone who has a bright future on the stage). Anyone who has seen the movie, or any movie with this formula, knows what happens next, and the script merely serves as a bridge between when we can hear Crosby utilize that beautiful voice of hers.  


But that doesn’t mean the rest of the cast isn’t terrific. Meg Clark is delightful (and hilarious) playing Rachel’s headstrong publicist Sy Spector, while Maxwell Lam clearly understood the campiness that comes from playing a character dubbed “The Stalker.” Ensemble members Kylie Bushman, Quinn Fritz, and Abigail Knight also standout as a trio of college girls who put their own spin on “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.” Everyone else in the company is having a blast and that infectious energy sizzles during the closing number where everyone in the theater was up on their feet dancing the night away. 


Costumes by Sabriyah Davis are gorgeous, Marty Flake’s scenic design shines, and music conductor Josh Glover is blessed with an incredible orchestra (pay close attention towards the end and you might witness a pretty rad saxophone solo). They have, like the entire cast and crew, rallied around this production in more ways than one, and turned what was otherwise a disjointed script into something tangible. “The Bodyguard,” as a musical, was never going to have the cultural impact of the motion picture (how could it?), but this show has still given the community plenty to sing about. 


THE BODYGUARD: THE MUSICAL continues through June 16th. Tickets can be purchased at croswell.org. 





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