“The Bodyguard,” now playing at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, MD is a musical written by Alexander Dinelaris and directed by Toby Orenstein and Mark Minnick. The score features music made famous by late-Whitney Houston. “The Bodyguard” is based on the 1992 Warner Bros. film of the same name, screenplay by Lawrence Kasden, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. The musical/stage version opened in London in 2012 and later was performed worldwide. (Houston tragically died shortly after it opened in London.)
The plot is essentially the same in both genres. The time has been moved from 1992 to the present. Rachel Marron (Ashley Johnson-Moore) is a famous singer with a young son. A Stalker (Justin Calhoun) threatens to kill her. Therefore, a bodyguard, Frank Farmer (Russell Sunday), is hired to protect her and her family. As the danger increases, the relationship between Frank and Rachel also changes. The two become romantically involved, but that entanglement may increase Rachel’s vulnerability. The difference between the movie and the musical is that the latter focuses more on Rachel. It also spotlights her younger sister, Nicki (Samantha McEwen Deininger), who is also attracted to Frank and is jealous of her sister’s success. Frank also forms a paternal relationship with Rachel’s young son, Fletcher (Chase Reaves).
The audience will not be disappointed in the music which encompasses most of Houston’s successful recordings including “Queen of the Night,” “The Greatest Love of All,” “I’m Every Woman” and of course, “I Will Always Love You.” The music is under the direction of Ross Scott Rawlings, who also conducts the orchestra. The score includes melodies written by some the biggest names in the music business, for instance Dolly Parton, Gerry Goffin, Ashford and Simpson.
“The Bodyguard” may be just “One Moment in Time,” but that moment is a memorable one.
The singers are truly amazing. Moore’s voice is multi-octave, and she rocks whether she is doing “The Greatest Love of All” or “One Moment in Time.” She has most of the big numbers and carries them off with grace.
Deininger, as the envious Nicki, sings so close to Houston’s style, it is an eerie but splendid sound. As the nightclub chanteuse, she belts out “Saving All My Love for You” as well as any popular diva.
Sunday’s character does not really get to belt one out until almost the end when he sings “I Will Always Love You” with Moore. The two have great chemistry and make this a bittersweet ending.
The rest of the supporting cast, David James as Sy Spector, Rachel’s music producer, DeCarlo Raspberry as Bill Devaney, her manager, David Bosley-Reynolds as Tony Scibelli, the long-time bodyguard and Jeffrey Shankle as Ray Court, Frank’s colleague, are all strong performers and bolster the music and action with their fine voices and acting ability.
Calhoun, who does not get to sing alone until the encore, is sinister as The Stalker. His scene caressing the dress he stole from Rachel is spine-chilling.
Reaves is adorable as Fletcher. (Gavin Lampasone and Kaden Lampasone will play Fletcher on alternate performances.) He also can hold his own with the more experienced singers as in “Jesus Loves Me” which he sings with Deininger. He also can dance which he shows us during the encore of “I Want to Dance with Somebody.”
Shalyce Hemby is the Choreographer. The dance numbers are always a highlight of a Toby’s production, and “The Bodyguard” is no exception. From the opening “Queen of the Night” to the last song, “I Want to Dance with Somebody” you will marvel at the very talented ensemble. The wonderful Ensemble includes Quadry Brown, Simone Brown, Crystal Freeman, Sylvern Groomes, Rachel Kemp, Alexis Krey, David Singleton, Patricia Targete, James Toler, Brook Urquhart, Carl Williams and Tara Yates-Reeves
Orenstein and Minnick have a knack of getting great performances from their cast. The show never lags. They never overdo the scenes that are tear-jerkers, but allow those scenes to help develop the story. Much of the cast have appeared in many shows at Toby’s in the past few years. The directors seem to know they can trust them to pull together another successful production. They allow them to do their “thing.”
The costumes by Janine Sunday are perfectly glittery and jazzy for this production. Both Moore and Deininger have many costume changes. Their clothing seems just right for rich women in the entertainment business.
The set and lighting design by David A. Hopkins blend nicely to help create the mood, and I really like using the screened balcony for The Stalker scenes. It made them creepier.
Mark Smedley did the sound design which allowed to music to dominate but not “blow out our eardrums.”
“The Bodyguard” may be just “One Moment in Time,” but that moment is a memorable one. Whitney Houston fans will be will rewarded with their favorite songs, and those who may be to young to be as familiar with her work, will still love the great musical and dancing performances.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes with an Intermission.
“The Bodyguard” will be playing at Toby’s Dinner Theatre, 5900 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia MD 21044 until November 3, 2019. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at 410-730-8311.
Don’t forget, for evening performances, Toby’s serves a buffet dinner and Sunday Matinees serves a brunch. There’s plenty of good food to go around. Dinner and brunch are served before show time.
Advisory: Subject matter may be too mature for very young children.