Let’s Hear It For The Bodyguard!
Revival Tour of the Popular 1992 Film Comes to Town This Month

By Lee Valentine Smith

In 2012, the iconic 1992 movie “The Bodyguard” opened in London’s legendary West End theater district as a significantly revamped musical reboot. Since then the production has spawned a number of touring companies around the world. With a slate of constantly evolving casts, the show has gained a massive cult following of new fans.

The current US tour stars singer/actress Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron, the role Whitney Houston made famous in the film. The stage adaptation includes the signature soundtrack songs as well as many of Houston’s familiar hits including “One Moment In Time,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “How Will I Know?” Cox knew and recorded with Houston and brings the production full circle with Judson Mills along for the ride in Kevin Costner’s titular role.

Seven weeks into a scheduled year-and-a-half stint, veteran stage actor-singer Charles Gray now co-stars as manager Bill Devaney. Just before a recent performance in Philadelphia, Gray spoke with Insite about the production.

Before we talk about the Bodyguard, let’s talk about your new single, “Love Is Love.” What inspired it?

Well, after the Orlando massacre, I really took it personally because I envisioned myself, just going to clubs at that age. As we all do, very innocently, to just go out and have a good time. The idea that somebody could come along and blow you away for no good reason, just messed with me horribly. I had gone to visit my folks and it was a three-and-a-half hour drive back from New Jersey. By the time I got back, the song was there. It was me just getting it all out. I wanted it to be another choice for people to band together to acknowledge that it really doesn’t have to be this way. It’s an anthem and I put it in a format that I thought would be more likely to be heard in a club.

Is this from an upcoming full-length album?

No, this is just a one-off. I’ve never really done a full album, but there’s a lot of random stuff out on You Tube and Soundcloud. A hundred years ago, I was a session singer for 8-Ball Records in Manhattan so somewhere there’s some random house music with me screaming in the background. Funny stuff! There’s an arc of a career in there somewhere.

And that arc has led to The Bodyguard.

Well what’s funny is, I went to school to sing and I went to New York as a singer and all the roles that I’ve had have been singing. But this is the first musical I’ve had where I don’t sing a note! It’s kind of difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that I’m in this show with all these iconic tunes and I don’t get to sing any of it!

How is the cast settling into the run?

It’s been an exciting journey. What’s interesting to me is none of us had intentionally tried to find out more about the existing show because we wanted it to be ours for this tour. We didn’t try to find out what was going in London or Germany or any of that, we just let it come to us. You know the music is going to be good, but it must have been interesting for the director to watch us discover the show. It’s caused each company to be quite bespoke. There are similarities but the details of the various roles are up to us. They’ll adjust dialog to make it fit and work for us. We’re at a little under a 100 performances, I think it’s around 90-something at this point, but the trick now is to get it to Broadway. We get a standing ovation every night and overall, the audience response has been incredible. It really puts things into a new context and makes you listen to songs you’ve heard forever in a completely different way. Ultimately, everybody just comes out smiling and clapping, having had a great journey in the theater.

Did you create your own backstory for your character?

Well I’m ever so blessed in this situation. Bill Devaney has one goal, one thought, one mantra, and that’s the care and protection of Rachael, end of story. And I get along with Deborah really well, I just do. Early in the rehearsals, I started to just discover who she was and what kind of relationship we were going to have as human beings on this planet. I’d bring her little treats to rehearsal and make sure she had everything she needed. So I basically took on that type of caring position. She knows that at some point, a sugar-free Peppermint Patty is going to show up in her dressing room and she gets all excited about it. We have a great time, so the backstory for me, is just the reality of our dynamic. If it seems that I’m very caring for her onstage, it’s because I really am.

That’s a very healthy dynamic.

Exactly! But I’ve just come to admire her so much to get out there and sing those 13 songs and be on stage every minute, just hollerin’ the whole time. And she’s always in such a good mood. I have such admiration for her as a person, as a mother, as a friend, just all of it. She’s an extraordinary human being so it’s not hard for me to do this role. All I really have to do is just stand there and show everybody how we are.

That’s so rare. Some casts barely tolerate each other.

I can’t say that I’ve ever been in a situation where I’ve gotten along with absolutely everybody. Crew, stagehands, everybody’s been really cool. We generally do hang out and confide in each other and stuff. We have a cast who, in many cases, are under the age of the movie. Some are like 22 or 23 and I’m like, wow, they weren’t even born yet! It’s kind of hard to digest, but their experience with this music and the story is completely different than people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Some of the songs don’t seem that old, but they’re becoming standards at this point.

Yes they are that old (laughs). Funny how time creeps up on us, isn’t it! And this show is new to me because I’ve spent a long time being the youngest person in the room but now I’m officially the oldest person in the cast.

But with age comes a whole shift in the experience and brings additional respect.

It does! And it really serves my role. I’m the guy who comes in and is supposed to be in charge of everything, so it just plays right into it.

You mentioned the audiences, can you tell a difference from city to city?

Oh Lord, yes! We can’t wait to get to Atlanta, to be honest. It’s so funny, even in rehearsals, people were saying, ‘Oh, just wait till you get to Atlanta!’ We just came from Columbus and there were times it was like singing to the shady pines, you know? It was like, ‘Is anybody here?’ They were just so quiet! But then, like clockwork, we get to the final number and they’d all jump up and start hollering and screaming and clapping. It’s like, ‘Where were you for the last two and a half hours?’ You know, a little back-and-forth never hurt anybody! But Philly has been great, and they’ve been very vocal. Almost to the point of being distracting and kind of funny. The show – well any show, really – works so much better when the audience is really feeling comfortable enough to express themselves. So we are very much looking forward to coming to Atlanta because we’re all pretty sure the folks there are gonna come out and really make themselves heard!

The Bodyguard runs from March 28 - April 02 at The Fox.

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