As the stage lights go dim and the first notes of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” begin to play, the room goes quiet.
The spotlight fixates on Virginia Roebuck as she makes her way to center stage, her voice carrying the iconic song with ease. And every time she hits that infamous note, it’s like hearing it for the first time — chills.
For the next few weeks, Roebuck is lending her voice to the character of superstar Rachel Marron as part of the Garden Theatre’s production of “The Bodyguard.” The 18 cast members have been hard at work for the last week with their technical rehearsals, but on July 9, it’s showtime.
Based on the 1992 film, the stage-musical version of “The Bodyguard” features Houston’s greatest hits throughout the storyline.
Marron refuses to believe she’s in danger, but her newly hired bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is convinced otherwise. Although each of them expects to be the one in charge, what they’re not expecting is to find their home in one another.
A romantic thriller, “The Bodyguard” is calling the Garden Theatre home from July 9 to Aug. 1. Audience members can expect to hear hits such as “One Moment in Time,” “I Have Nothing,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and, of course, “I Will Always Love You.”
As part of the cast, Maitland resident Michael Morman — who plays Bill Devaney — couldn’t be more excited to be back on stage and helping bring the musical to life. Morman has been performing for 35 years. The youngest of four boys, he loved entertaining and imitating TV show characters. At the time, though, he was never encouraged to pursue his love of the arts.
Years later, he returned to school after working for a while to learn theater. Morman has worked at Universal Orlando Resort both as a performer and as head of the entertainment department.
However, he retired from Universal and returned to his roots in acting.
“I was successful in what I was doing and responsible for the live entertainment at both parks at Universal and Citywalk, but it wasn’t performing,” he said. “It was like, ‘Let me just go find myself and do the things I enjoy doing.’ I wound up being involved in some form or fashion with (performing).”
Since then, he’s picked up both community and professional roles throughout Central Florida. It’s not his first time at the Garden Theatre, though. He was a member of the cast of “Driving Miss Daisy” there in 2010 and also was part of a private performance.
When the Garden Theatre reached out to Morman to audition for “The Bodyguard,” his first reaction was confusion.
“I thought, ‘The Bodyguard? I didn’t know that was a play, I just thought it was a movie,’” he said. “I auditioned, and then they were kind enough to say, ‘Yeah, we’d like to offer you the role.’ Once I read the story again and removed Whitney Houston from my head and just said, ‘Let me just read the story,’ I thought ‘This is cool, I like this.’ I have a role of playing a father, a manager, caring for someone. I like that part of it.”
THE RIGHT ROLE
Morman describes the show as many things — a love story, a tragedy and a thriller all in one. He said it’s the story of a great performer who has her dreams and doesn’t realize the danger that surrounds being in her position, having a child, and trying to do what’s best for her and her child.
“She has been guarded because she is a woman in an industry where women are not taken seriously,” he said. “She is dynamic in what she’s doing to be the best that she can be because she’s enjoying what she’s doing. She feels, of course, that she is protected already, but — hint, hint — there’s danger lurking.”
As for Morman’s role of Marron’s manager, he facilitates her day-to-day operations. But he’s not just a manager. He’s a father figure who cares for Marron and her son like they are his own daughter and grandson. Morman adds that Devaney is a caring, fatherly type but also a shrewd businessman.
It’s a production in which Morman said everyone involved is in sync with the artistic vision at hand, and also one that promotes diversity.
“I think the most rewarding thing … is to really witness diversity,” he said. “It is totally in play here. … It’s everyone together working on a project and having fun. There’s some talent in this show that the audience is really going to be impressed with, and it comes from the direction, as well.We work hard but have fun.”