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'The Bodyguard' Hits Wharton Center with Non-Broadway Aspirations

Joan Marcus, Courtesy The Bodyguard Musical
Deborah Cox and Judson Mills of The Bodyguard: The Musical

Take a much-loved romance film from the nineties, add-in several great hits by Whitney and you’ve got the makings of “The Bodyguard,” at the Wharton Center this week.

Judson Mills is Kevin Costner… or at least they play the same role. Costner was Frank Farmer, The Bodyguard, in that 1992 film where Costner was the stoic foil to Whitney Houston’s singer. Judson plays the same part, a semi-stoic foil to recording-artist Deborah Cox in the stage version of The Bodyguard. But why his version of Frank Farmer semi-stoic?

"On film," says Mills, "it's super interesting because you're right there in somebody's face and those eyes are telling the whole story. But on stage, from the 5th row and beyond. So, he, my Farmer has become, I think, a little more charismatic, a little more personality and a little more physical. But I think it's necessary to keep it involved and keep people engaged."

"And having that instrument right in your face." I add.

"Yes! That's right!" exlaims Mills."She's the truth. Ms. Deborah Cox is no joke, trust me. Come see her at the Wharton if you don't believe me!"

"Is there a moment that you're like: 'It's coming... it's coming... she's going to belt any second.'?"

"Yeah, you know, I know her so well now" says Mills, "and I know her voice so well. I can tell then she's stressed, or tired. I can tell when she's on her game, you know. It's amazing to listen to her voice and her instrument and how well she maintains it and how developed and how mature her style and her--- she's just a pleasure. There's not many people around, if you get a chance to listen to her, I suggest you take it."

Judson Mills co-stars in The Bodyguard: The Musical which is at the Wharton Center in East Lansing all this week. He joined the production in part because of his former college roommate, a guy who got the Oscar a couple of years ago for co-writing the script to Birdman.

"Yes!" recalls Mills, who goes on to explain his friend's involvement in The Bodyguard: The Musical. "Alex Dinelaris wrote what's called 'the book,' which is what they call the translation from a screenplay to the stage and we were college roommates at Barry University in Miami, Florida. And we used to stay up late in the theater, drinking Coors Extra Gold and talk about winning Oscars and going to Broadway and here we are 20 years later."

"Were you friends with Alex and you became roommates later on, or was this randomly assigned?" I ask.

"Randomly assigned, yeah." says Mills. "We were roommates in college. We just landed and there we were, yeah. And so we remained friends, you know, over the different time and the Oscars came along, and we kinda got hooked back up again. And then this came along and they couldn't cast the bodyguard [the role], they couldn't find anybody. So, I got the call. He said, you know, 'The bodyguard doesn't sing. You feel like traveling?' and I said 'Yeah! Okay." and then lo, and behold, there a song! A Frank Farmer song in this thing. I felt scammed a little bit, I think. But you've gotta come see the show if you want to know any more about the song. It's funny, I'll tell you that."

While the national tour of The Bodyguard: The Musical which stars recording artist Deborah Cox and Judson Mills has being touring for about a year, Mills thinks the show might soon put down roots, but not in New York City.

"You know, we'd love to go to Vegas, actually. That's kind of our plan, our hope. We think that would be kind of a good fit for us, you know? I don't know if Broadway is the spot for us. Our show, and Deborah, and some of the things they have going on in Vegas right now with Brittney & J-Lo. It seems like a good fit. We'll see what happens. We've got our fingers crossed."

Judson Millsand recording artist Deborah Coxstart in The Bodyguard, which samples many hits by the late Whitney Houston. The musical is at the Wharton Center in East Lansing all this week. More info at Wharton Center.com.

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