The cast and crew of The Bodyguard Musical speak with Afridiziak Theatre News

Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012 11:21
Ariyon Bakare and Janet Suzman in Dream of The Dog
The cast and crew of The Bodyguard Musical speak with Afridiziak Theatre News

Words: Gillian Fisher

Twenty years after Lawrence Kasdan’s film captivated audiences with its tale of forbidden love between troubled starlet and her enigmatic minder, The Bodyguard has been revamped and is set to hit the West End’s Adelphi Theatre this winter as a show stopping musical.

With Heather Headley stepping into the Prada heels of Rachel Marron and Lloyd Owen taking on the role of Frank Farmer the room buzzes with excitement and expectations are high.

Producer Michael Harrison admits he was nervous about approaching award winning director Thea Sharrock with a musical project, only to be met with Sharrock declaring herself to be the world’s biggest Whitney Houston fan and using “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” to boost the morale of previous cast members. Sharrock admits the production has been a challenge,

‘It’s a very difficult job how to adapt it for the stage. We had to hear this out loud and find out who on earth was going to play Rachel Marron.’

The director goes on to describe being awed during the read through with Headley, ‘She has such an extraordinary not just a talent, but an aura about her. I simply said to the boys, “If you get her, you’ve got me.” And we got her!’

Heather Headley on her leading role in The Bodyguard Musical: ‘I am honoured, very very honoured. It will be one of the most challenging things that I’ve ever done but I think I’m ready for it. It is a beautiful story. I thought “I’m a Whitney fan. I’m a fan of the theatre” and it felt like the role of a lifetime had arrived. And look at my driver.”

Between being introduced to the two leads and Headley belting out stupendous renditions of “I Have Nothing” and of course the acid test of “I Will Always Love You” producers David Ian and Michael Harrison are quick to dispel criticisms that the launch of the musical has been rather shrewdly timed to cash in on the tragic loss of the late great Whitney Houston.

Ian commented, ‘I think many many people thought that ten weeks ago we were clever or quick enough after the world shattering news on February the eleventh to have put this musical together since then. But it actually goes back a lot longer than that.’

Harrison adds ‘It goes back about six years to when the idea first came about. The Bodyguard has been rather a labour of love, any new musical, putting it together is a difficult process. But the score is fantastic; the soundtrack to the movie went on to become the strongest selling soundtrack of all time. The excitement is worth it, it’s the dream theatre and the dream creative team.’

Speaking later to the two lead stars their enthusiasm for their upcoming roles is obvious. There is clearly a great rapport between the two actors, Headley throws back her head and laughs like a drain as Owen enlightens her on the wonder of boiled eggs with marmite soldiers. The leading lady admits she had reservations about taking on the role made famous by Whitney Houston.

‘I am honoured, very very honoured. It will be one of the most challenging things that I’ve ever done but I think I’m ready for it. It is a beautiful story. I thought “I’m a Whitney fan. I’m a fan of the theatre” and it felt like the role of a lifetime had arrived. And look at my driver!
’ gesturing to Owen.

The leading man reveals how delighted he is to be walking the boards in London again, even having gone for a run in the drizzle earlier having missed it living in LA.

‘I’m really excited; we call it being a West End Wendy. I love it, the routine of being in the dressing room, being in town. I grew up around those dressing rooms. I love being on stage.’ Headley adds, ‘It’s amazing to work with him because he comes into this as a profound actor so it’s a completely different form. It’s gonna be great, I’m gonna learn a lot.’

When asked about his move to LA three years ago Owen explains, ‘I was working a lot over there from 2007 so we ended up moving there as a family three years ago, now we’re looking at potentially moving back. It’s a very different world out there. There’s no centre of town, so West Hollywood I’ve named Soho and the West End, Santa Monica becomes Hampstead; I’ve had to map it in my head geographically. It takes a while to build up your urban family. Invariably you’re attracted back to the English sense of humour. What I like about Heather is she knows how to take the piss as we say.’

Trinidad born Heather’s laughter ricochets around the room again as she reveals her first performance was at the age of two on a radio show where she won $15 and a pan of biscuits. Having moved to America at the age of 15 she is eager to experience British culture during her stay in London. Her husband will be commuting every ten days and in the meantime she plans to take her two-year-old son to all the museums and watch him break everything on display.

‘I’m very excited about being here in London ’cos there’s a huge Caribbean population.

I’m really excited to be a part of the culture. With that said, America has been an amazing adoptive mama to me, all of the opportunities that have come about. I’m Trinni-American, and now I’m Trinni-American-Ish!’

When questioned about worries that people will automatically make comparisons with the movie the actors are confident in the freshness of the new format. Headley comments, ‘I think the audiences are going to expect it to be exactly like the movie and it’s not. There are surprises in there.’

Owen continues, ‘It’s not the same script so you can’t come at it the same way even if you wanted to, because of the dialogue. Also, when you think of the date of when the movie was released, it’s twenty years ago, so there’s a whole generation of people who won’t have seen it. I think Lawrence Kasdan is really excited to be back at that script again. He’s excited to make those adjustments he would have originally wanted. If you were moved watching the movie, I guarantee you’ll get a greater experience at the theatre hearing Heather sing those songs, because I know they power of theatre if you get it right. Which is what we’re going to try to do.’

Headley sums up perfectly, ‘It’s gonna be a wide gap. Grandma is gonna bring her daughter and gonna bring her grandson. A 15-year-old is gonna walk in and see it for the first time and her mother is gonna be there saying, “I told you!” The music is amazing and it’s a timeless story about love, and two people who seem so in control of who they are, but are not and they both break down each other’s walls. At the core of it, it’s a beautiful love story which is why people should run to the theatre.’

Info: The Bodyguard Musical opens at the Adelphi Theatre November 6.

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