“The Bodyguard,” now at the Diamond Head Theatre, is a problematic stage musical with a wafer-thin script, centering on an unlikely relationship between a blues-pop singer and her security guard. The key missing ingredient: no chemistry between the two leads.

Were it not for the show’s final two songs – “I Will Always Love You” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” running perhaps 7 to 10 minutes, and vibrating with emotion and excellence  – this is a play that otherwise goes woefully wrong.

While the score is rich with songs associated with the late Whitney Houston, rendered here by a diva named Rachel Marron and played by Bailey Barnes, a flimsy script fails to develop a credible plot between Marron, who inherits and is initially repulsed to have security agent Frank Farmer, played by Andrew Erwin, to guard her. It’s not the stalker that ruins the fun, it’s a bum book.

Andrew Erwin as Frank Farmer, Bailey Barnes as Rachel Marron in “The Bodyguard.” Photo by Brandon Miyagi, courtesy DHT.

There’s no fault with the cast, but the culprit is a script which lacks spark and sizzle, stifling and challenging director John Rampage with an impossible task: to try to bring this deflated balloon to life.

Based on a 1992 Warner Bros. movie, starring Houston as the songbird and Kevin Costner as her security guard, “Bodyguard” features a book by Alexander Dinelaris and a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan. The melodies are shoe-horned into the script, so essentially, “Bodyguard” is a jukebox musical with mega-wattage hits, but the tunes don’t propel the story. It all plays like a work in progress.

Amid the grandeur of DHT’s still-new facility, Dawn Oshima’s sets are woefully inadequate, and fails to establish the splendor deserving of a pop diva. There are vertical drops and scrims, seats and a sofa, and a large bed for Rachel’s home; tables and chairs  populate a karaoke lounge.

Such shortfalls suggest the star resides in a motel room. And aside from a projection of a modest stained-glass mural in a church scene, and a double-arched frame in an Academy Awards moment, DHT has not yet perfected its use of fly space technology. Is this due to a lack of budget or simply a shortage of imagination?

Yet an enthusiastic cast of 30, garbed in Madison Gholstone’s exquisite costumes (red, black, glittery silver and gold) for every body shape imaginable, give the production some life. And Aiko Schick’s hair and makeup are equally stunning.

The ensemble of singers-dancers, choreographed by Christine Yasunaga. Photo by Brandon Miyagi, courtesy DHT.

The kudos, however, go to choreographer Christine Yasunaga’s perpetual-motion, vigorous and splashy dance routines, which validate the notion that the production has a pulse despite the absence of atmosphere.

The show has had a storied past; “Bodyguard” was ready to roll, in the fall of 2019, but was saddled and shelved because of the pandemic that would last three years. Director Rampage, choreographer Yasunaga and musical director Darcy Yoshinaga  were among the behind-the-sceners who prevailed, updating their participation for this run.  

As Rachel, Barnes has the mammoth mission of delivering Houston’s big numbers, including “How Will I Know,” “The Greatest Love of All,” “I’m Every Woman,” “One Moment in Time,” plus the show-closing emotional ballad, “I Will Always Love You” and the hand-clapping, foot-stomping “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” finale. However tardy, this burst of life is welcome.

The sidebars provide some interest; Bailey’s real-life kid brother, Erye-Jordan Barnes, plays her son Fletcher in the performance I saw; the role is double-cast with Ezekiel Kekuna in some shows.  La Tanya Fa‘amausili-Siliato, Sade Frame and Anjelica Glasgow as backup singers have the moves and voices to earn some deserved hurrahs. And Dwayne Sakaguchi as Rory has no shortage of leaps and bounds in his rigorous and athletic dances, a supporting role that feels like a lead.

Nicki Marron, played by Rache Sapla, is Rachel’s sister, and has several vocal solos including “Saving All My Love for You,” but her delivery seems muted and restrained, kind of underperformed so as not to collide with Rachel’s more effusive delivery.

Erwin, as Rachel’s late-blooming love interest, has his own moments to remember, toying with a deliberately crude “I Will Always Love You” during the karaoke scene, and segues to a competent beau-protector by the final curtain.

And oh, Ben Walsh as the stalker, sings a few bars, in the waning moments of the show…a nice surprise.

Audiences will adore most of the songs and may not be bothered by the lame script.

The musical jolts include “One Moment in Time,” by Albert Hammond and John Bettis, from the Oscar-nominated flick, “Queen of the Night,” which also was a prominent theme for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. “I Will Always Love You,” Houston’s iconic ballad, was famously written by Dolly Parton, who is part of the tune’s legacy and surely is the centerpiece of the show.

A parting thought: “Bodyguard” premiered in the West End in 2012 and has toured many cities in Europe and Asia, and even has bookings through the end of this year, mostly on foreign turf. But it never, ever played Broadway — the heartbeat of theater – so can it legitimately still be dubbed a Broadway musical? I think not.

And that’s Show Biz. …


‘The Bodyguard’

A musical based on a 1999 film of the same name; book by Alexander Dinelaris, screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan.

Where: Diamond Head Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through June 11; extended at 3 and 7:30 p.m. June 17 and 4 p.m. June 18.

Tickets:  $27 to $52, at, (808) 733-0274

Running time: 2:30, including intermission

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