Deborah Cox’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ is her companion EP to her starring role as Rachel Marron in the American production of ‘The Bodyguard.’ The production has yet to hit Broadway, but started at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey and is currently touring – not a good sign if you ask me. I saw the show in London a few years back and while I had reservations about the show in general (just another jukebox musical) I was floored by Heather Headley’s performance and thought she made the role, and more importantly, the songs as her own. To this day, I still play Headley’s version of ‘Run to You,’ and I hear Heather, not Whitney, and that’s a tough feat to accomplish.
This makes it doubly difficult for Cox. For me she needs to get over the ghost of Headley, and the larger ghost of Whitney. Rachel Marron is an iconic role, and the singing part is its heart – you either put a mark or you don’t. Cox sings these songs effectively, and has more than enough sass in her singing. One cannot say that these songs are not in good hands. Ultimately, the ghosts haunt her. Whitney had the charm and chops that made these songs hers, and Cox’s versions pale. They are slightly better than karaoke, and probably better than American Idol, but still, they’re no Whitney. And the other thing she lacks is Headley’s theatricality. With Headley, I sense a character, a dramatic situation, a story arc in the songs that surpassed even Whitney’s versions. So for me, Cox comes as a third choice. But looking at the top two, third choice here is not a losing spot .