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The Bodyguard, The Musical begins with a bang!  Literally, the unexpected sound of gunshots combined with great strobe lighting effects made me (along with most of the audience) scream with delight and jump out of our seats!

 

I enjoyed this show from beginning to end with a strong starring lead in Deborah Cox and a very strong supporting cast of actors and dancers. I am a fan, though not a cult fan, of the 1992 movie The Bodyguard starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. Although I wasn't a Whitney Houston music fan per say, I have admired her amazing and formidable vocal talent as much as anyone else who has ever heard her sing. 

 

If you haven’t seen the movie from which this musical is based, it is the story of a successful music icon (Rachel Marron) who receives a string of death threats from an obsessed fan leading to the hiring of a bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who is taken on by the singer and her staff with a reluctant acquiescence at first. Frank comes with some baggage, but the former secret service man is good at what he does – very good. Frank quickly takes over security detail for the star and her ten-year-old son Fletcher. As the story progresses, the threats become more and more bizarre, the danger ever-increasing.  

 

I agree with the choice not to write any songs for Kevin Costner's character, played with super cool Costner-esque aloofness by Judson Mills, probably because it was just too hard to try to create any material for him that could compare with the huge and much beloved hits Whitney produced on the soundtrack for the film like “Greatest Love of All”, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, “Run to You”, “Saving All My Love”, and “One Moment in Time”. 

 

Ironically, since that time Kevin Costner has become a professional singer/musician with his band Kevin Costner and Modern West, and although his band has played to audiences both large and small around the world - this is a fact many might not know. 

 

Yes, Judson seemed a little stiff in the role but I feel like he did his best to project a strong silent sexy type written for the subtlety of film then translated to a very large theater stage. There were a lot of pregnant pauses in his speech, but I think the writers could have added more humor and dialogue to his role as Frank Farmer to even out the fact that it is a musical in which he is the lead and does not get to sing. There was one really good laugh - not sure of it was intentional - but as we see Rachel slip out of the bed after her first night with Frank and he lays there still asleep, she immediately begins singing these lines from Whitney’s hit “All the Man That I Need”: 

 

“He fills me up 

He gives me love 

More love than I've ever seen 

He's all I've got” 

 

Rachel Marron played by Deborah Cox was absolutely spot on with the Whitney Houston songs thanks to her incredible voice. I really could have listened to her and Jasmin Richardson who played Rachel's little sister Nikki Marron sing Houston's hit all night, as they are both such amazing vocalists. Douglas Baldeo also does an incredible job as Rachel’s son, Fletcher. Baldeo has an amazing future ahead of him, the child actor displaying boundless vocal range and dancing his way into the hearts of theatre goers. One of the play's most touching moments centered around a beautiful rendition of "Jesus Loves Me" performed by Cox, Richardson and Baldeo when Farmer hid the family at his father's cabin in the country.

 

It was a fun and entertaining idea to use the film as the basis for this musical. The whole point of Frank Farmer's entrance and brief love affair in the movie was to teach Rachel that she is undervaluing her own well-being and safety by refusing to let a bodyguard change her way of life.

 

Frank Farmer is the sexy, masculine protective glass picture frame through which we get to admire, to actually magnify Rachel’s great beauty and talent. It is realized just how important protection is needed of a woman so gifted to her family and to the public - her adoring fans. 

 

Kevin Costner fought to get Houston cast in the role at a time when an interracial relationship was a much more risqué subject. Thanks to his persistence we have the classic that exists today and its current stage version.

 

Every time I heard Deborah Cox' wonderful voice ring out with Houston's trademark magnificence, I wished the real Whitney Houston had found a "bodyguard" to watch over her own short life. It is a tragic spin that a strong, down to earth man like Frank Farmer may have protected her and kept her from the fast track of drugs and non-stop pressure to produce hits. Whitney Houston might still be with us today.

 

Highly recommended as a fun date show and must see for any Whitney Houston fans. The Bodyguard is being performed at Oriental Theatre through February 12th. For more information on this exciting show, click here

 

Published in Theatre in Review

I just saw Kevin Costner and his great band Modern West perform at The Arcada Theatre near Chicago and was blown away by their polished and expansive sound and by how much they have grown as a band over the years. Kevin Costner’s spectacular presence as a front man, singer and bandleader has reached new heights.

I have seen the band perform only twice before several years ago at The House of Blues in Chicago and the Northern Lights Theatre in Milwaukee and both times felt the band was already hitting all the right notes. Now they are even better. Kevin Costner and Modern West are very poised and professional as a group. The band comes with great original western rock flavors and superbly skilled musicianship which includes founding members John Coinman, bassist Blair Forward and a sparing, tight ensemble, including Teddy Morgan and Park Chisolm on guitar, Larry Cobb on drums, complete with a soulful, laidback fiddle played by Jason Mowery.

And now after traveling the world and performing to sold out venues with upwards of 40,000 people, Kevin Costner and Modern West have elevated their songwriting and playing style in such a way as to be forever removed from those lists of actor’s bands that have come and gone. Modern West is a legitimate western rock band – and a very good one.

Kevin Costner and Modern West’s vocal harmonies are not just precise, they are touching and moving. The fiddle, bass and guitars are sweet and low, almost a subtext to the lyrics, very pure and emotional. Larry Cobb’s fantastic drumming can be thunderous and pulsating or warm with a gentle finesse when needed. I just love it. Cobb holds down and rocks the beat old school style and his work really pushes the sound into true rock and roll.

I got the full VIP treatment. I was able to “check under the hood” of the band during the sound check and hang out with them and Kevin backstage to relax, share a glass of wine, and “check the oil” of the band as friends and mates. The Modern West vehicle passes inspection with flying colors.

Kevin Costner’s voice and stage presence as a musician have grown over the past nine years to the point where I can honestly compare him to great singer/songwriters in the vein of Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, and Kenny Chesney. Kevin’s voice fits perfectly with the band’s style of music. Costner has created his own little niche vocally and thematically. The lyrics are also crucial, and I was tremendously moved by several of the new songs.

There are several songs, which have radio hit and/or soundtrack success written all over them.  Two of them being the timeless, classic sound of “Let Me Be the One”, of which Costner sang as a duet with daughter Lily and “Never Losing You.”

 “Never Losing You” just soars with true emotion: 

“I believe that you and me are bound together,

 Through the past and now forever,

…Never losing you, never losing me.

 -And I know, I’ve always loved,

I know, I’ve always loved,

 I know, I’ve always loved,

 And I know, I’ve always loved …you.”

The lyrics are such profound, yet simple poetry, and the hook, the melody and chorus together just brought tears to my eyes, literally, rolling down my face. “Never Losing You” as sung by Costner, so honestly, so hopefully, was a heartrending performance I will never forget. It is more than a love song; it is an anthem, a hymn.  The song “Never Losing You” is surely destined to be the outstanding love theme in one of Costner’s future projects.

On this tour, Kevin’s daughter Lily opens for him and sings one song with the whole band. Lily is beautiful enough to model, but smart enough and talented enough to write and sing her own music. Lily Costner has a unique and lovely lilt to her voice. If I were a folk/country A& R person, I would be fighting to sign her.

2014-04-21-17.19.06

                                                          photo by Ken Payne - Kevin Costner and John Coinman during sound check at Arcada Theater

Kevin Costner is a true performer, from head to toe. Costner really does it all, he has had phenomenal success as a writer, director, and producer of everything from film to TV and now as a singer/songwriter and bandleader.  Kevin works consistently with a slow, persistent rhythm and casual determination that belie the massive maelstrom of information and details milling around in his brain.

 Always working, always creating, Costner and Modern West wrote several of the songs, which were included in the award winning, hugely successful “Hatfield’s and McCoy’s” TV miniseries soundtrack.It would be reverse discrimination not to mention Costner’s current film release, just to prove to music folk that his band is the real thing. “Draft Day” by Ivan Reitman,  a fellow Jew whom I adore, also gave audiences another fun, solid and compelling piece of filmmaking. Kevin Costner carried “Draft Day” on his broad shoulders with a shark-like intensity and grace reminiscent of Cary Grant.

I compare the pleasure of true performance to the fun of riding a bike. Performing as an actor in TV and film is like getting to peddle your bike three times and then stopping. Peddle, peddle-stop. Peddle, peddle, stop.  Wait around with your bike for three hours then peddle three times more and stop. There is no feedback from an appreciative live audience - no applause.

Acting for the stage, when it becomes possible, is somewhat better in terms of actual minutes of performance time, like riding your bike for a good hour here and there, but still you may not be riding your bike, it is usually someone else’ words and ideas you are expressing. 

Performing original music with a band is getting to ride your bike for as long as you want and going wherever you want to go. You can trick your bike out with sparklers, you can sticker it with tears and lightning bolts, and you can pop a wheelie. In other words, you are performing with all of your own heart, soul and body for as long as you want on any given night.

Kevin Costner knows this about performing and along with his longtime friend and songwriting partner John Coinman, has wisely and lovingly built a bike to his own exacting specifications. Modern West is a vehicle, if you will, that gives him and his band mates carte blanch to experience the joy and satisfaction of true performance whenever and wherever he has time to play.

Kevin has got that rock swagger going on now when he performs with the band. The musicality of movement is in his body. It is an essential element of healthy performance for any front man hoping to perform rock music.  Costner’s tanned face, arms and trademark long legs, are full, healthy and muscular. It’s funny because as we all chowed down on healthy broiled chicken and steamed broccoli backstage, guitarist/lyricist John Coinman confided that they all have to push Kevin to eat his vegetables!  John said Kevin doesn’t work out per say but can still hit a ball like a pro. Whatever Kevin is doing, it’s keeping him in great shape.

Kevin Costner is a legend for good reason; his extensive body of superior, quality projects has blessed our culture for many generations all around the globe and that makes him a national treasure.  Each night that you as an audience member choose to spend with him, to actually look him in the eye, in the flesh - not a shadow of lights and illusion on the big screen – is unique and will not occur again. 

Look, there’s an old saying I love that’s still true today – “You can’t fake the funk!” You can hire a bunch of studio musicians, you can tweak your voice in the studio, but if the music is not good you can’t just pretend that it is. Kevin Costner and Modern West are the real McCoy.

For tour dates and more information on Kevin Costner and Modern West, visit http://kevincostnermodernwest.com/.

 

 

Published in In Concert

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