The last time Honolulu saw Andrew Erwin on the Diamond Head Theatre stage, he was the anonymous soldier flogging Jesus in DHT’s 2022 production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
A year later, the theater is opening its long-awaited production of “The Bodyguard” on Friday with Erwin in the title role.
“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Erwin said of his elevation to lead status. “I think in any role, you have to find the parts of you that overlap (with the character), and I think when it comes to wanting to protect, and be there for the people that you’re closest to, I think that’s very relatable. There are certain things (about the character) that are less relatable, and that’s OK too.”
The show is Broadway’s version of the 1992 romantic thriller about a former secret service agent, Frank Farmer (played by Kevin Costner), who is hired to protect superstar entertainer Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston, in her acting debut). The musical moves the story into the present and brings Houston’s music to the forefront by adding nine Houston hits that weren’t heard in the movie. For Houston fans the show is comfortably close to being a jukebox musical, but the storyline still follows the fictional Grammy-nominated diva.
Marron’s used to giving orders, Farmer expects his client to do as she’s told. Conflict follows. One of Erwin’s favorite moments in the show is a scene where the battle of wills becomes confrontational.
“It’s a matter of safety. As a pop diva, she is being a bit loose on his guidelines and how to stay safe as a public figure,” he explained. “It comes to a head at a point where he needs to direct her, and it does get a little heated. It’s an exciting scene. … It’s beautifully written as well, and I’m so excited to put it on stage in front of an audience.”
No one could be happier about putting “The Bodyguard” in front of an audience than DHT’s Artistic Director John Rampage, the man who oversaw the theater’s original production in 2020. The theater was two days away from its preview performances — then COVID-19 hit Hawaii and the show closed before it opened.
Two years later, Rampage was able to put the show back on the schedule.
“When we were planning this season I just brought it up,” Rampage said. “We (had) put so much work into it, and the music is so fantastic. And I know there were a lot of people very excited to see it three years ago. This just gives them an opportunity to finally witness the production.”
The first thing Rampage did when the show was greenlighted was contact the cast and crew of the 2020 production and offer them the roles and crew assignments they had trained for. Some had left Hawaii, some had other commitments, but two core members of the 2020 production team joined Rampage for this one — choreographer Christine Yasunaga and musical director Darcie Yoshinaga.
On stage, Dwayne Sakaguchi will return in his role from 2020. “He’s a fantastic dancer and he’s also working as Christine Yasunaga’s dance captain,” Rampage said. “Much of the choreography has been retained from three years ago, not all of it, we’ve done some new work as well, and Dwayne has been fantastic helping set that.”
Rampage adds that he and Erwin worked together during early rehearsals of the show to overcome a unique “problem.”
“It’s an unusual male lead role because he only sings one song and he’s supposed to sing it badly, so we have to work with him on how to sing badly, because he’s too good of a singer,” he said. “He’s a real delight to work with, a new face pretty much for our audiences, especially in a male lead role, and also just working incredibly hard.”
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