REVIEW: ‘Wanna Dance’ with ‘The Bodyguard’

Deborah Cox and Judson Mills star in the U.S. tour of “The Bodyguard.”
Deborah Cox and Judson Mills star in the U.S. tour of “The Bodyguard.” ©2016 Joan Marcus

The U.S. tour of “The Bodyguard,” a show that started in London and then launched here, brings the story of the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston, and the late star’s music, to the stage. R&B/pop singer and actress Deborah Cox stars as Rachel Marron, a character who herself is a music superstar who has a stalker, gets a bodyguard and drama ensues. The story itself has elements of a soap opera, but it does what soap operas do -- entertain with drama and romance and tension. Cox’s co-star, the bodyguard character of Frank Farmer played by Kevin Costner in the film, is actor Judson Mills. Cox and Mills have chemistry and are a good pair on stage.

Now to get what most potential audiences will want to know, and that is if Cox does Houston’s songs justice. She does. She nails the most important song, the song that is always associated with “The Bodyguard” film and Houston, too -- “I Will Always Love You.” Now, for some serious Houston fans, no one will do the late singer justice, and that’s a valid point of view. But Cox isn’t trying to be Houston, she’s being herself, singing those songs once sung by a woman she knew and worked with. And Cox gives a wonderful performance of the music, including the especially lively “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

What “The Bodyguard” also does is remind us of Houston’s work, for those who loved her music over the years. Hearing “How Will I Know” sung live brings you back to when you first heard that song, as a child or adult or perhaps even at this performance.

Also important to note with this production is that Cox isn’t the only one singing the songs of Houston. Rachel’s sister also has a significant role and a significant voice, with Jasmin Richardson shining as Nicki Marron.

The set design is crisp whites and moving walls and lighting that work well for the story set mostly in Rachel’s mansion. The orchestra, though unseen in the pit, also has a starring role in “The Bodyguard.” Going to see this tour will remind you why you like Whitney Houston’s music and why you like Deborah Cox, too.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan

GO & DO:

WHAT: “The Bodyguard”

WHEN: Through March 19

WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center

123 Vivian St., Durham

TICKETS: dpacnc.com