'The Bodyguard' runs to the Civic Theatre

Twenty-five years after it touched audiences at the movies, "The Bodyguard" is having the same effect on theatergoers.

"People are really moved and inspired when they leave the show," said Deborah Cox, the award-winning Canadian recording artist and actress who in the stage musical "The Bodyguard" stars in the role played by Whitney Houston in the 1992 film. "A lot of times they're in tears because they're moved by the story. But they leave on a really high note because they left the theater dancing. They heard all these hits that they've known over the years, and they have a different sense of them because of the way they're told in the show."

Those hits include "Saving All My Love," "Run to You" and, of course, "I Will Always Love You." In the musical, the national tour of which arrives Tuesday at the Civic Theatre downtown, the story of superstar singer Rachel Marron and the bodyguard assigned to protect her ( Kevin Costner in the film, Judson Mills in the stage production) from a stalker lives on in a new medium.

"Our show stays true to the original script," said Cox, "but it made me appreciate the way that our story is told because of how the songs are incorporated into the scenes."

In the musical, which was adapted by Alexander Dinelaris and premiered five years ago in London with Heather Headley ("Aida" on Broadway) as Rachel, more dimensions of the character are explored, said Cox.

"You really see her relationship with her son. You see her as a very guarded woman, very protective. She's an in-charge person who's also very vulnerable, and I get a chance to play that."

"The Bodyguard"

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 7:30 p.m. June 15-16; 2 and 7:30 p.m. June 17; 1 and 6:30 p.m. June 18.

Where: San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., downtown

Tickets: $22.50-$90

Phone: 619.570.1100

Online: broadwaysd.com

The complexity of the character represents Cox's principal challenge in playing Rachel.

"There are so many great highs in the sense that she's this big star, but she's in real danger and she's trying to protect her son but also trying to protect herself from falling in love with this bodyguard," said Cox. "I think that's the hard part: keeping very guarded and not showing my hand too early in the show."

"The Bodyguard" is Cox's latest high-profile musical stage role. She previously starred in "Aida" and "Jekyll & Hyde" on Broadway, and last year she played Jazz Age legend Josephine Baker in "Josephine" at Sarasota, Fla.'s Asolo Repertory Theatre. As a performing and recording star in the pop, dance and R&B idioms, Cox is long established, with Grammy nominations and hit singles like "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here" and "If It Wasn't for Love" to her credit.

Her favorite stage is the theatrical one.

"There's nothing like it," Cox said. "Singing and being in the studio can be a little isolating. I have a lot more fun when I'm part of a production and able to tell a story, and it's fun to play a role that has so many different moments."

Coddon is a freelance writer.

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