Heather Headley makes the Bodyguard her own: Actress takes on Whitney Houston's role in the musical version of the hit film
10:06 GMT, 5 October 2012
Heather Headley stars as Rachel Marron in the muscial version of The Bodyguard
Heather Headley curls up in an armchair in the middle of a rehearsal studio in North-West London and starts singing the opening lines to Run To You, a song I’d always associated with Whitney Houston. Not any more.
‘It’s not Whitney’s song any more,’ agreed Thea Sharrock, who is directing the Tony award-winning actress in a musical stage version of The Bodyguard, based on the film Houston made with Kevin Costner 20 years ago. ‘It’s yours!’ she shouted gleefully in Headley’s direction.
In the show, which Sharrock has shifted from the early Nineties to present day, Heather tackles the part, created by Houston on screen, of Rachel Marron: Oscar-winning, singing superstar.
Sharrock suggests I think of her as a combination of Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Madonna.
Heather turns to her co-star Lloyd Owen as she continues to sing, then gets up and walks stage front, where Debbie Kurup, who plays her sister, joins in.
The song rocks the roof of the cavernous room and it’s so marvellous I feel as though I’ve gone to heaven.
‘It’s starting to cook nicely, isn’t it’ says David Ian, who’s producing the show with Michael Harrison. ‘See, this is a show about women who can sing.’
Chris Egan has re-orchestrated the film numbers to give them a more up-to-date vibe, and the ‘new’ sound is evident in the rescoring of Queen Of The Night, which sounds like it was written two days ago, not two decades.
I watch Heather step on to the stage accompanied by a crack team of dancers, trained by choreographer Arthur Pita to move like the backing singer-dancers you see at slick rock concerts.
Designer Tim Hatley has covered every available wall space with photos and drawings of the sets and costumes that will go with numbers such as Saving All My Love, I Wanna Dance With Somebody and the anthemic I Will Always Love You.
It has taken years to develop the
show, with producer Harrison doggedly pursuing the stage rights, much to
the amazement of Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote and produced the film.
Kasdan couldn’t see how The Bodyguard could be turned into a musical.
‘He eventually saw the light,’ Harrison says drily.
Now Kasdan is a convert, and Sharrock says he has been invaluable in offering advice and support.
was David Ian’s idea to go for Heather. The actress created the role of
Nala in The Lion King on Broadway, and starred in the Elton John-Tim
Rice musical Aida. I saw her in both shows, so understood how dynamite
had stopped doing theatre shows and was living happily with her husband
and son in Chicago, giving occasional concerts and recording the odd
‘People told me she wouldn’t do it. That was before she was asked,’ Ian says.
told me she thought long and hard before agreeing to do the show — way
before Houston’s death in February. When that happened, she says: ‘I
asked my people to get me out of it.
didn’t want people to think I was copying her or taking advantage of
her. Then my husband’s family made me see that I had to do it.’
she’s here, and The Bodyguard has all the ingredients to be one of the
biggest musical hits to open in the West End in years.
show begins performances at the Adelphi Theatre in London on November
6, where it has so far taken 1.8 million at the box office — running
close to rival show Viva Forever, which has 2 million in ticket sales
at the Piccadilly.
The Book Of Mormon, one of the best constructed musicals I’ve seen in years, comes over from New York to the Prince of Wales Theatre from February 25.
Dance-off in the West End
Strictly dancers Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Wnidsor star in Burn The Floor
Rival dance shows are getting ready to double-quick-step their way into the West End.
Burn The Floor will settle into the Shaftesbury Theatre for a six-month residency from March 6.
Strictly stars Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor (pictured together) will join 16 other dancers in a show that’ll take you through ten styles of ballroom, from Viennese waltz and jive to samba and mambo.
James Miller, who runs the Shaftesbury for The Theatre Of Comedy, says the dancers go from being beautiful and elegant to ‘fast and furious’. The show originated as part of the entertainment devised by Anthony Van Laast for Elton John’s 50th birthday bash. It’s since become a multi-million-pound extravaganza, overseen by Jason Gilkison, who performed at Elton’s party and is Burn The Floor’s artistic chief (and a champion mover, too).
Another production, Midnight Tango, from producers Arlene Phillips and Adam Spiegel, plus Strictly choreographer Karen Bruce, will sweep into the Phoenix Theatre for a five-week run from January 30, before embarking on a 16-date UK tour. Award-winning dancers Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace are among the performers.
Spiegel declared a ‘dance war’, claiming that ‘ballroom has its place’, but it’s not as dynamic as the tango. So there.
Miller, from the Shaftesbury, was more diplomatic, observing that his show is a ‘big spectacular, as opposed to a focus on two individual stars’, but suggesting there was room for both. ‘We’re complementary,’ he tells me.
Watch out for
Mads Mikkelsen, who can be seen giving his Cannes Film Festival Best Actor award-winning performance in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt. Set in a small Danish village, the film tells of a school teacher (Mikkelsen) wrongly accused by his best friend’s daughter of molesting her. Or rather, everyone jumps to the wrong conclusion — and it’s earth-shattering for all concerned. Mikkelsen gives an outstanding performance, which can be seen at the BFI London Film Festival next Thursday at the Odeon West End. There’s another screening there on October 13, and one at the Vue Leicester Square on the 15th.
Mads Mikkelsen won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his performance in The Hunt
'One of our great actresses': Anne-Marie Duff
Anne-Marie Duff, who rightly dominates Josie Rourke’s production of Racine’s Berenice, using a new version by Booker prize-winning author Alan Hollinghurst. Berenice, the Palestinian queen, seethes when Titus the Roman emperor is forced to rebuff her love. Why the hell didn’t he tell her he’s not allowed to get it on with her because she’s a foreign ruler Then Antiochus, King of Comagne, declares his love for her, and there’s this squabble of unrequited love. But I felt neither man at the Donmar Warehouse was heavyweight enough for Ms Duff, who is one of our great actresses.
Laurence Fox, Matthew Lewis, Arthur Darvill, Cian Barry, Jolyon Coy and Lewis Reeves, who are the superb ensemble bringing the revival of Jonathan Lewis’s play Our Boys to life at the Duchess Theatre. The lads are patients at a military hospital in Woolwich in 1984, and their laughter hides the pain and horror they have endured for their country. Fox gives a powerful speech that takes you right to the heart of their suffering. It’s a young cast that should be supported.
Stewart Clarke, who displays astute comic timing as the big lug in the new musical Loserville, in previews at the Garrick Theatre. He’s part of a youthful ensemble that includes Eliza Hope Bennett, Aaron Sidwell, Richard Lowe, Daniel Buckley, Lil’ Chris and Charlotte Harwood. Set in the Seventies, Loserville is goofy and geeky, but it amused me. I caught an early preview, and there’s plenty of time to tweak and tighten things before the show’s official first night on October 17.