The label “guilty pleasure” gets thrown around an awful lot and is supposed to be reserved for things you enjoy, but know deep in your heart of hearts is terrible.
But what happens when that “guilty pleasure” is wrapped around something that is genuinely and legitimately fantastic? Well then, you get something special like “The Bodyguard: The Musical,” which is currently playing through Oct. 15, at the Fox Theatre.
The musical is based on the 1992 movie of the same name that served as a star vehicle for pop sensation Whitney Houston and co-starred Kevin Costner in his prime. The premise involved Houston playing a pop star (a stretch, I know) and Costner playing her no-nonsense bodyguard. The two fall for each other while a dangerous stalker circles around them.
The movie was an absolute cheese-fest and is really only remembered for Houston’s smash hit “I Will Always Love You” that accompanied the soundtrack.
Coming to the stage, “The Bodyguard: The Musical” makes two brilliant choices. First of all, it absolutely owns the trashy romance-novel premise without a single wink or a nod to the audience. There are so many unintentional giggle-worthy flourishes you’ll be asking yourself, “They have to know this is completely ridiculous, right?”
The other brilliant move made by this production is, at its core, it is an unabashed celebration of Houston’s music, with her songs performed and packaged at a level that’s as close as you could ever hope to get to the real thing.
I don’t know how you can say a multi-platinum, many-times-over Grammy winner is underrated, but, for some reason, Houston doesn’t feel fully appreciated here in 2017. I’m sure some of that can be attributed to the tabloid exploits that dogged her in the latter years of her career that preceded her unfortunate and untimely death.
But, this woman straight owned the late 1980s and early 1990s to the point as you’re watching the show you almost feel embarrassed how many of her parade of hits you have forgotten. “I’m Every Woman,” “How Will I Know,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “Saving All My Love” and “Greatest Love of All” are just the tip of the iceberg.
Houston had a once-in-a-generation voice, so the production wisely sought out the next-best approximation in R&B star Deborah Cox, who assumes Houston’s role. Cox has enjoyed a long career and even worked with Houston before her death. Cox not only has the talent, but you can tell she has the desire to do right by Whitney. When the time everyone has been waiting for comes and she walks on stage to the first notes of “I Will Always Love You,” she revels in the moment almost as much as the audience.
I also have to throw some love to Judson Mills, who takes over the Costner role and sets the tone by playing every corny line of dialogue and goofball moment as straight as an arrow and with complete conviction. The strong-jawed actor was the right man for the job with credits that range from three years on “As The World Turns” to series regular on “Walker, Texas Ranger.” The dude’s entire career has been a guilty pleasure.
I fully understand “The Bodyguard: The Musical” will not be for everyone. But, if you can appreciate the silliness of the story for what it is and are ready to welcome a fitting, long-overdue tribute to Whitney Houston, then you, my friend, are in for a unique treat. And when it’s all said and done, you won’t even have to feel guilty about it.
“The Bodyguard: The Musical” is playing now through Oct. 15, at the Fox Theatre. For tickets, call 314-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.