By Kimberly Rau
The 1992 film “The Bodyguard” was a smash hit, and it’s no wonder that the musical is following suit. The storyline, which diverts slightly from the film, is part thriller, part romance; the music is catchy; and the cast is talented. In the right hands, it’s a recipe for success.
Quick story recap: Rachel Marron has hit the bigtime. She has multiple Grammy awards to her name and is up for an Oscar. Her sister Nicki is just as talented but has stayed in her sister’s shadow all this time, singing on the side and working for Rachel. There’s just one hiccup. Rachel has a stalker who keeps breaching security to leave her letters and steal her stuff. Along comes best-in-the-business bodyguard Frank Farmer, who would literally give his life to protect Rachel. Is she grateful? Not at first, because Frank has a way of cramping her style. Of course, hate turns to love relatively quickly…but Frank knows how feelings can complicate business, and it’s not all smooth sailing for the star-crossed lovers.
Down in Matunuck, TBTS newcomer Christopher Campbell directs, and it’s clear he’s the right man for the job. His directorial choices take things up a notch and make for an incredibly fun evening. The set (designed by Kyle Dixon) is fun and visually engaging. The orchestra is, as always, pristine.
And the cast is a powerhouse of talent. Jenay Naima is a perfect Rachel Marron. Her voice is incredible, powerful and moving, but Naima isn’t striving to imitate Whitney Houston here. Instead, she makes the role her own, and brings down the house, especially on numbers like “I Will Always Love You” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” LaDawn Taylor plays Rachel’s sister Nicki, and lucky for us, the show gives us a couple of numbers where we get to enjoy Taylor’s voice on its own, which is fabulous.
Robb Sherman plays Frank. Despite being the titular role, Frank Farmer doesn’t get much of the spotlight, but Sherman takes his moments and plays them well. The karaoke scene where Farmer tries to serenade Rachel is particularly notable, because Sherman’s comedic timing is spot-on.
In the category of “actors to watch,” we have Emjay Roa, who plays Fletcher, Rachel’s sweet-voiced son. Roa, who has some nice children’s theater credits under his belt and does a good job with this role, too, is clearly going places. Keep an eye out for him in future productions.
In short, “The Bodyguard” makes for a fun night out with friends. It’s a good show if some of the people in your party aren’t “theater people,” because the film connection creates familiarity, but the “theater people” in your group will appreciate it too. This is a quality show with lots of talent, and a great way to spent a hot summer evening.
“The Bodyguard” runs through Aug. 5, 2023, at Theatre by the Sea, 364 Cards Pond Rd., Wakefield. Tickets may be obtained at the box office, online at theatrebythesea.com or by calling 401.782.8587. Masks encouraged but not required.