The Bodyguard musical set to be a smash hit and why we"ll always love Heather Headley

Why we'll always love Heather… The Bodyguard musical set to be a smash hit

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UPDATED:

23:24 GMT, 8 November 2012

After six years of negotiations, planning and deal-making, the new musical The Bodyguard – adapted from the movie which starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston – started previews this week. And once all the kinks and gremlins have been sorted out, it has the makings of a monster smash hit.

Heather Headley plays superstar singer-turned-actress Rachel Marron, while Lloyd Owen has been cast as former U.S. secret service agent Frank Farmer.

Michael Harrison, whose idea it was to go after the stage rights to The Bodyguard film, stressed that the show is a proper book musical and not a 'Whitney Houston tribute show'. To be sure, the songs are numbers associated with Houston, and most were in the movie.

It's going to be a monster hit: Heather Headley, pictured here going into her I'm Every Woman groove, plays the lead role of superstar singer-turned-actress Rachel Marron

It's going to be a monster hit: Heather Headley, pictured here going into her I'm Every Woman groove, plays the lead role of superstar singer-turned-actress Rachel Marron

But while Headley plays Houston's role of diva Marron, she doesn't just copy-cat the legendary singer, who died in February.

Director Thea Sharrock stressed during
rehearsals: 'Rachel's not Whitney, and Heather's not playing Whitney –
she's playing a character called Rachel; there's a difference!'
Heather's Rachel is her own.

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The actress won a Tony Award for her performance in the Elton John-Tim Rice musical Aida, and she knows how to soar and hit the high notes. So I expected her to be great when tackling numbers such as I Will Always Love You and Run To You.

However, Lloyd Owen, as the guilt-ridden super-minder, is a revelation. I've seen him in countless plays in the theatre and on TV, but I don't think he has ever commanded the stage as powerfully as he does in The Bodyguard.

David Ian, who's producing the show at the Adelphi with Michael Harrison, said there was still work to do 'on tightening and refining'. He added: 'We can see what we have to do before opening night.'

The production, which cost nearly 5 million, is clearly having some technical issues, because it stopped five times on Wednesday thanks to various problems with the set and projectors.

/11/08/article-2230197-15EAC5C6000005DC-645_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Knighthood: Actor Kenneth Branagh, who is being knighted for his services to drama, is to play Macbeth for the first time ” class=”blkBorder” />

Knighthood: Actor Kenneth Branagh, who is being knighted for his services to drama, is to play Macbeth for the first time

The festival will run from July 4-21, although the actual dates for Macbeth won’t be released till next week.

The American director Rob Ashford will direct. (Actually, I’d heard that Branagh and Ashford would co-direct, but there was no confirmation of this last night.) Ashford has won awards and acclaim in this country for powerful productions at the Donmar Warehouse of A Streetcar Named Desire, with Rachel Weisz and Ruth Wilson, and Anna Christie, starring Jude Law and Ms Wilson again.

Previous iterations of the Manchester International Festival have launched new works such as the Damon Albarn and Rufus Norris opera Doctor Dee, and Victoria Wood’s musical That Day We Sang.

A member of the artistic team at the Royal Exchange in Manchester noted that it would be ‘unusual’ to stage a Shakespeare play at the festival, though they added ‘perhaps Branagh has a revolutionary take on it’.

The short run suits the actor, because his film career has moved into top gear of late.

He was nominated for an Academy Award and a Bafta for his astute portrait of Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn. He also directed the comic-book film Thor.

He’s also directing (and appearing) in a thriller about Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst Jack Ryan, with Chris Pine and Keira Knightley in the lead roles.

There are other film projects in the pipeline, too — and Branagh still has to shoot a final series of Wallander for producer Andy Harries and BBC TV.

However, if the Scottish play strikes gold — or, more appropriately, blood — perhaps he and Ashford might do a short London season, a tour, or even skip over to Brooklyn or Broadway.