The film marked the acting debut of Whitney Houston, grossed $411 million worldwide and spawned what would become the best-selling soundtrack of all time with more than 45 million copies sold worldwide. Simply put, “The Bodyguard” was a big deal.
Now, some 25 years later, singer Deborah Cox is reprising the role in a musical that is currently touring the country. Cox definitely comes with credentials. She has released five albums since the mid ’90s, including two No. 1 singles (“Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here” and “We Can’t Be Friends,” the latter a duet with singer R.L.) and more than a dozen songs that topped the dance chart. In addition to her own success, she actually sang a duet with Houston – 2000’s “Same Script, Different Cast” – and provided the vocals for the 2015 biopic “Whitney,” which was directed by Angela Bassett.
“The Bodyguard,” the musical, features not only songs from the movie’s soundtrack, including “I Will Always Love You,” the Dolly Parton-written tune that spent 14 weeks in the number one spot on the pop charts, and the two Oscar nominated songs “I Have Nothing” and “Run To You,” but also 10 other greatest hits by Houston.
Cox said she had to think long and hard before accepting the role.
“I was a little hesitant at the beginning because I knew what the expectations were and I knew this was a role that had to be delivered successfully every night,” she said. “There were big shoes to fill. The songs of Whitney Houston are not easy so I knew that tackling the soundtrack of the show as well as acting and dancing was going to be a huge undertaking.”
But Cox is not new to the stage. She has twice appeared on Broadway – in Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida” and “Jekyll & Hyde” – and also played the legendary Josephine Baker in “Josephine” at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida. There is, however, a great difference between appearing on Broadway and doing a touring production.
“There are pros and cons,” Cox said. “I love to travel. I love to be in different cities, and I enjoy meeting new people and performing in different theaters. I think the toughest part is the schedule, the amount of shows. I get the opportunity to bring the show to a completely new audience every night. Not everyone gets the opportunity to go to New York and see shows. I think it’s great I get to bring this show to not only different audiences but a different generation, too. A lot of young people come to the shows that have never seen the film.”
And even if they have, the musical, Cox said, is different from the movie.
“I think because it’s a musical it kinds of lends itself to being a little different from the film,” she said. “The relationship between Rachel Marron and Frank Farmer is the same. But, you know, you really see their connection as it unfolds in the musical because Rachel is expressing herself and giving the audience some insight through the songs that she sings, which is one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of this production. I just love the way that the songs really helped to tell the story.”
While she’s in most of them, Cox doesn’t sing every number herself.
“The sister also sings a few songs as well and there’s a little bit of a love triangle so that’s why the songs really help to shape the story and give insight into what these characters are feeling,” she said. “I’d say there are a lot of more musical numbers to help tell the story than scenes and it works. Another thing is you get the chance to hear the songs in their entirely as opposed to the film where there are only snippets of them.”
Sure to be in the audience for every show are some of the legions of LGBT fans Cox has made in the past two decades. A huge supporter of gay rights, she performs at Pride festivals regularly.
“It’s been such a great union,” Cox said. “It’s been a great relationship. I think it just happened organically. I think it started secretly when I was in high school when I had friends who were afraid to come out and were being bullied and being chastised by their family when people in my own family were afraid to come out. I think it started from a young age and then when I got into the music business and recorded some remixes. They resonated in the clubs and when the DJs picked them up they’d ask me to come sing at circuit parties at 4 or 5 in the morning and I just sort of did it on a whim.
“It was a groundswell from there,” Cox continued. “It just became about being there to support in a real way rather than just showing up at press opportunities. So over the years I’ve continued to keep an open mind about the struggle and about equality – a lot of the very simple things in regards to love are the very things that I believe in, too.”
Lansing Wharton Center Show times are Oct. 17-19 at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 20 at 8 p.m., Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Deborah Cox is not scheduled to perform at the Oct. 21 matinee and Oct. 22 evening performance. The Wharton Center is located at Michigan State University, 750 E. Shaw LN in East Lansing.
For more information, call 517-432-2000 or visit http://www.whartoncenter.com.
Detroit Tickets go on sale Oct. 15 for the Fisher Theater Show. Show times are Jan. 16-20 and Jan. 23-27 at 8 p.m.; Jan. 21 and 28 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Jan. 20-21 and Jan. 27-28 at 2 p.m. Deborah Cox is not scheduled to perform at the Jan. 20 and 27 matinees and the Jan. 21 and 28 evening performances. The Fisher Theater is in The Fisher Building at 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit.
Call 313-872-1000 or visit http://www.broadwayindetroit.com/..
Grand Rapids Tickets go on sale Nov. 2 for the DeVos Performance Hall show. Show times are March 6-8 at 7:30 p.m.; March 9-10 at 8 p.m.; March 10 at 2 p.m.; March 11 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Deborah Cox is not scheduled to perform at the March 10 matinee and the March 11 evening performance. The DeVos Performance Hall is located at 303 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids.
Call 616-742-6500 or visit https://broadwaygrandrapids.com/the-bodyguard for more information.