By Wendy Carson
I’ll begin by noting that neither John nor myself have seen the movie, “The Bodyguard,” which is the source for the musical of the same name, now on stage at Footlite. That said, this review will focus solely on the merits of the stage show, and not be complicated by comparisons that film fans will make. I was told that there were a few changes made for the story flow, but those are for others to examine and recount.
The overall plot is basic: Obsessed fan threatens pop star and experienced bodyguard is hired to protect her. Add to this a few ambition issues and romantic subplots, and the whole thing could easily boil down to a cheesy “Hallmark Movie” – yet somehow it all works together quite well. I found myself actually charmed by the spectacle.
No matter your personal opinion of Whitney Houston, she had a fierce voice. With the majority of the songs presented being what might be considered personal anthems, the show’s success or failure heavily lands on the actress/singer playing her role. Fortunately, Angela Nichols-Manlove fills those shoes almost effortlessly. She fully brings out the headstrong sassiness of Houston’s character Rachel while still showing her vulnerable side.
RC Thorne gives the titular character the firm determination of the profession but manages to highlight the fear that drives him in this endeavor. He brings believable life to the hard-boiled exterior with a soft heart archetype.
JB Scoble as The Stalker was appropriately creepy. I was quite impressed with the choreography of his interactions with various characters during the scenes he shared. However, I never felt as though the script tried to adequately explain his motivation and backstory. This weakness of the source material aside, Scoble and director Bradley Allan Lowe made our mystery man appropriately menacing.
Young Cairo Graves as Rachel’s precocious son, Fletcher, is the breakout star of the show. His talent at not stealing every scene he is a part of (which he could quite easily do) was as impressive as his scope of abilities. He is a true triple-threat who we could see delighting us for many years to come.
Melissa Urquhart is also sharp as Rachel’s sister, Nicki, around whom much of the plot twists. Additionally, she provides a powerful voice on a couple of numbers.
At our performance, Lowe ably stepped in for a supporting actor Shalmon Radford, who fell ill. (Hopefully, Radford will return this weekend.) The cast also includes Sam Hill, Robert Dooley, Carolyn Lynch, and Miranda Nehrig. Backing singers and dancers were Anya Andrews, Damaris Burgin, Kaylee Johnson Bradley, Kendell Crenshaw, Azia Ellis-Singleton (Nicki understudy), Suzana Marmolejo (Rachel U/S), DeSean McLucas, Jada Radford, and Ryley Trottier.
Whether you are a fan of the movie, or of Whitney, or just want to see something different and upbeat, this is a show that will bring you laughs, possibly tears, and make you sing along in joy.
For “All the Man That I Need” (and other hits), see “The Bodyguard,” by Alexander Dinelaris (based on a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan), playing through March 19 at Footlite Musicals, 1847 N. Alabama St., Indianapolis. Get tickets and info at Footlite.org.