Actor Judson Mills asked if the interview was being recorded for future airing. Told no, he said he'd go ahead and hop on an exercise bike if that was okay, while we talked.
It was more than appropriate given that Mills is playing the Frank Farmer role in The Bodyguard, the musical inspired by the 1992 hit movie of the same name. A bodyguard, after all, needs to be in pretty good shape. Even more so if he takes his act onstage.
Mills (The Icarus II Project on television) says this about the show, on its way to the Hobby Center courtesy of BBVA Compass Broadway Across America: “People love it. People are on their feet every night. We got people hollering the whole show.”
The premise is the same: She’s a pop star in danger, so a bodyguard is hired to protect her. They get closer and closer until shazam, it’s not just a business arrangement anymore.
The chief differences are: In the musical the focus is on the singer (Canadian singer Deborah Cox in the Rachel Marron role) rather than the bodyguard. Even more Whitney Houston songs have been added. And the story has been moved up to the present day.
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Asked how he happened to take on the role and the travel, Mills laughs and says, "The story goes like this: The gentleman who wrote the book, who wrote the adaptation, his name is Alex Dinelaris [co-writer of Birdman]; he’s my college roommate. We’ve been in touch over the years. They were having difficulty casting the role. Deborah Cox had been attached for a couple of years. He gave me a call. He assured me that the bodyguard didn’t sing, which isn’t entirely true. The rest is history."
The musical has attracted audiences for a variety of reasons, Mills says. "There's two people who you respect and admire right away. Frank Farmer's dedication and expertise in what he does and, of course, Rachel Marron, her expertise and what she does. And the fact that they are thrust into each other’s company and butt heads the way they do because they are both alphas; you just naturally are dying for them to figure out a way to get together. You're worried for both of them and yet they're not getting along. It makes for kind of a nail-biter. "
This is a show with a lot of special effects and lights – “It takes eight semis to carry us around,” Mills says – so prepare to be dazzled. And start working on those songs, which now include – in addition to “I Will Always Love You” – “Saving All My Love For You,” “How Will I Know” and I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” And many more. “It’s a celebration,” Mills says.
Performances are scheduled for August 15-20 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit thehobbycenter.org. $30-$110.