For Pittsburgh Theatre
March 3, 2018
For Megan Melville, performing at the Benedum Center is a special thing. The St. Louis, Missouri native attended Point Park University and now is back performing in Pittsburgh as an ensemble member of the U.S. tour cast of The Bodyguard.
“Part of my heart will always be here in Pittsburgh. I started to become an artist here and performing at the Benedum is truly a full circle moment for me,” Melville says.
The Bodyguard, which opened Tuesday, tells the story of Rachel Marron, a world-famous recording artist who is receiving death threats from a stalker. Frank Farmer is then hired to be Marron’s bodyguard and protect her from her stalker. The Bodyguard was originally a 1992 film starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. In keeping with the film, the 2012 musical’s score is entirely Houston music, culminating in her iconic “I Will Always Love You.”
The musical and the film differ a little. The film, written by Lawrence Kasdan, focusses more on the bodyguard while the musical focusses more on Rachel. Nikki, Rachel’s sister, is also given a bigger role in the musical than she had in the film. The musical also adds nine extra Houston numbers including “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” “All the Man that I Need,” and “Saving All My Love For You.”
Melville doesn’t let the fact that the show was originally film change how she views the material. “I have a confession, I had never seen “The Bodyguard” before I got this job! I know... I saw the musical first, at The Smith Center in Las Vegas and then the movie. I approach the material as its own animal. Many people will have seen the movie, but others will be experiencing the story for the first time! It’s important that we give both groups a night to remember!”
During “High Adventure,” Babkak, Omar, and Kassim go marching across the stage defeating royal guards with swings of their swords. It’s another long number that puts the actors’ talent and high energy on display. During the number, Omar never seems fully aware of what he’s doing, just happening to lift his sword as he’s being attacked from behind.
Arroyo says about his character, “Omar is one of Aladdin’s three closest friends, and they’re kind of like the three Stooges. They’ve all got their own personality traits. Omar is more of the peace-maker, the sensitive poet. He’s got a ‘lover not a fighter’ energy about him. At the same time, he is very scared. I like to think that when he’s put in a fight, you know, he’s stronger than he thinks. He’ll accidentally hit someone. When he wins in a fight it’s almost an accident. He’s much stronger than he’s even aware, and I’ve always loved that idea.”
Arroyo’s conscientious acting decisions are apparent on stage. Arroyo alters his voice; Omar’s voice is a little higher, innocent, and more nasal than Arroyo’s own rich voice. It’s hard to determine which of the musical theater trifecta – acting, singing, dancing – Arroyo is most talented at because he is so skilled at each.
Arroyo grew up in Palm City, Florida where he did theater as a kid. During his junior year of high school, he decided that he wanted to pursue theater professionally. He knew that it was a difficult career path, but he was persistent in pursuing it. Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious musical theater program was his number one choice, and, on his birthday, he found out that he had been accepted. “My parents are both in the medical field, and my older brother is a mechanical engineer, and so they were a little concerned. But once I got in places, they realized that I could do it. When I found out I got into CMU I ran through the halls of my high school screaming,” he recalls. He ran straight to his chorus teacher to report the news.
He enjoyed his time at CMU and in Pittsburgh and was happy to be back last month on tour. “I spent my transformative years in Pittsburgh and learned a lot. Having seen shows at the Benedum while I was in school makes performing on its stage so much more personal and special. I hadn’t known that Pittsburgh was a scheduled tour stop, and I was happy when I found out we’d get to be performing here.”
Arroyo is cheerful and easy to talk to. He has ready answers for everything, and almost every story he tells delights him. He has an infectious laugh and uses it freely. When he tells a story, he tells it so vividly that it’s like being there in the moment with him. He has a lyrical voice and an inviting way of talking that draws you into the conversation. He’s funny, sincere, and jokes as he tells his stories.
While he was at CMU, Arroyo participated in CMU’s completely student-run theater festival of new works called “Playground.” In addition to acting in Playground’s shows, he even wrote one. “It was a fluke,” he says. “Honestly, I think it was a one-time thing. I had this really vivid dream one night and just sat down and wrote it. But “Playground” was one of the best experiences, and it’s open to the whole campus. I just think it’s an incredible opportunity. I don’t have any plans to do more writing, but I’d love to write again if I get another inspirational dream.”
After graduating in 2015, Arroyo was cast in the National Tour of Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim’s epic musical based on the Grimm Brothers’ and Charles Perrault’s famous fairytales. All of the different fairytales converge together to tell a tale of caution through song. The show is darker than Aladdin and is not as dance-heavy. Arroyo played Jack from the Jack and Beanstalk fairytale.
Arroyo had been in New York “waiting for a gig” and happened to audition for both Into the Woods and Aladdin at the same time. He found out that he’d landed the role of as Jack in Woods and then found out that he’d been cast as Omar in Aladdin. Instead of deciding to just do a single show, Arroyo set to work to see if it would be possible for him to do both. He would have to leave the Into the Woods tour six months early, which is “usually a no-no,” he says. When he told the Woods production team, they told him that they would look for another actor to play Jack, but within a month, the team came back and said that they hadn’t found another actor they liked as much as him. They decided to give him the role despite his restraints and allow him to leave the tour early. Arroyo negotiated to have three days off in February before starting Aladdin so that he could attend his older brother’s wedding.
When he talks about his experience with both Woods and Aladdin, it’s clear that he has loved his time with both productions. He describes the culture of both tours as being families, having a strong bond that comes from touring across the country in busses and staying in hotels together in addition to performing together every night.
Melville was a musical theatre major at Point Park University. She graduated in 2011 and is grateful for her time there. “Point Park was an incredible experience! Amazing, but extremely challenging for me. I was a small fish in a big COPA pond. Especially my freshman year, the experience was humbling and forced me to examine what it really meant to be a dancer. I was extremely fortunate to have teachers like Ron Tassone and Pearlann Porter who believed in me and helped me become the dancer I am today. Overall, Point Park taught me how to be independent. I learned that if I wanted performing to be my life, no one was going to hand it to me, I would have to make it happen for myself.”
Some of her favorite credits include Vegas! The Show, Holland America Line and the film Love and Other Drugs.
Melville loves being on tour and says she would stay on tour forever if she could. She loves traveling and being able to explore new cities and food. She views it all as one big adventure.
From The Bodyguard Melville hopes that, “people take away a sense of nostalgia and a renewed appreciation for all of the amazing Whitney Houston music. I love seeing people singing and dancing their way out of the theatre!”