Regardless who steps into the role of pop star Rachel Marron and her protector Frank Farmer in the musical adaptation of 1992’s “The Bodyguard,” it will be nearly impossible to forget the original movie’s co-stars Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. Yet Broadway/R&B songstress in her own right Deborah Cox and the seamlessly matched Judson Mills repeatedly rise up to the challenge, interpreting the roles according to their own sizeable skillsets, rather than trying to mimic either A-lister.
Towards the tail end, “One Moment In Time” stuns in a nail-biting showdown with Rachel’s stalker live on stage at the Oscars, though it’s the bittersweet epilogue “I Will Always Love You” where the unflinchingly confident Cox would surely make her precursor proudest.
Outside of their own seasoned status, much of the reason this edition of “The Bodyguard” can stand on its own comes from an updated storyline and soundtrack, plus a present tense setting, complete with iPhones, selfies, YouTube and an unsuspecting trip to the karaoke bar that turns out to have disastrous consequences. That’s because Rachel has a creepy stalker (the carefully calculated Jorge Paniagua) who’s tracking her every move while keeping a ghost-like profile that even a former Secret Service agent and his team of experts can’t quite analyze.
Throughout Rachel and Frank’s around the clock contact, the romantic sparks eventually start flying, but the results aren’t nearly as schmaltzy or predictable as the movie and certainly don’t always come up as roses. Instead, Rachel’s sister Nicki (Jasmin Richardson, who’s also a mighty, lead-worthy singer) is thrown into the equation with an increased role, in turn, stirring up an unexpected, jealously-laden love triangle.
Along the way, all of Houston’s standout songs from 45 million album-selling soundtrack and many others from her career are included, from smash ballads “The Greatest Love Of All,” “Run To You,” “I Have Nothing” and “All The Man That I Need,” to dance floor fillers “Queen Of The Night,” “How Will I Know,” “So Emotional” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” Towards the tail end, “One Moment In Time” stuns in a nail-biting showdown with Rachel’s stalker live on stage at the Oscars, though it’s the bittersweet epilogue “I Will Always Love You” where the unflinchingly confident Cox would surely make her precursor proudest as she thrills longtime followers of the leading lady, the film and those falling head over heels for the first time.