Pop Power Ballads Hit a High Note in The Welk’s ‘The Bodyguard: The Musical’

Pop and R&B power ballads are at the heart of the musical The Bodyguard, currently playing at the Welk Resort Theatre through June 11. 

Rachel Marron dances in a gold and black costume while her back-up dancers dance around her.

Daebreon Poiema stars in The Welk Resort Theatre’s “The Bodyguard: The Musical.” Photo credit Ken Jacques.

The premise for the show, which was originally penned for Diana Ross in the 70s, ultimately became a vehicle through which Whitney Houston was able to perform a series of powerful songs, most notably her cover ballad “I Will Always Love You.” While the movie itself received mixed feedback, its music was universally loved and earned several Grammys. The production is based on the screenplay by Lawrence Kasden with book by Alexander Dinelaris.

The story follows pop star Rachel Marron, who has been widely and reguarly performing in a lead-up to an Oscar’s bid when she receives a letter from a stalker left in her dressing room. Shaken, her manager enlists notorious ex-Secret Service bodyguard Frank Farmer. While Rachel initially has reservations about the disruption to her home, her lifestyle, and her son’s life, she ultimately finds herself relying on the protective nature of her new security staff member.

Rachel sings in a karaoke bar while Frank looks on admiringly

Daebreon Poiema and Lance Arthur Smith in The Welk Resort Theatre’s “The Bodyguard: The Musical.” Photo credit Ken Jacques.

The Welk’s Rachel and Frank are competently played by Daebreon Poiema and Lance Arthur Smith. Poiema’s rendition of Rachel Mirren is spot on; in the first couple of numbers, she makes it clear that she can handle the rigor and reach of the iconic album and she carries a light-hearted energy that makes her presence as a pop star believable. As counterpart Frank, Smith is brusque and serious about his job; this coolness translates well to the persona of security-minded bodyguard, but it is the way that he reacts and engages in the presence of Rachel’s son, Fletcher (played by sixth grader Faizi Mahalingam), that sets the stage for Rachel and Frank’s eventual thaw.

The supporting players for this musical include the talented Patricia Jewel as envious sister Nicki Marron, Dan Mason as ineffective and territorial security guard Tony, and Steve Gunderson as pushy publicist Sy Spector. They are joined by a large ensemble which features Max Cadillac, Brian Osuna, Mark Torres, Deborah Fauerbach, Shira Jackman, Angelina Mirenda, Shelby Monson, Samantha Roper, Matthew Ryan, and Jupityr Shaw. 

Poiema and her dance troupe perform onstage.

Poiema and cast of ‘The Bodyguard: The Musical.’ Photo credit Ken Jacques.

Taking place on a sparse stage that regularly employs the use of suspended rolling flats and ample projections (designed by Rory Brown of The Brown Studio) alongside simple furnishings, this production nonetheless finds a bit of sparkle as it is brought to life through some clever lighting effects (Jennifer Edwards) and Rachel’s stunning costumes (Janet Pitcher) and wigs (Peter Herman). The musical also features some solid choreographic ideas by director/choreographer Corey Wright, many of which I’m sure will – along with some vocal harmonies (under the tutelage of music director Lyndon Pugeda) and sound balance (designed by Jordan Gray) – only continue to find their groove during the lengthy tenure of this production.

Doubtless those on holiday at the Welk between now and June 11 will be charmed by a production that feels much like a resort show aboard a cruise liner. What pairs better with an afternoon by the pool, after all, than show-stopping karaoke favorites, head-to-toe sequins, and a romantic, suspenseful story?

The Bodyguard: The Musical runs through June 11 at The Welk Resort in Escondido.

View the program.

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