Beverley Knight is one of the most recognisable faces and voices of the British music industry having enjoyed nearly twenty years in the business.
This September she is taking on a new challenge as she takes over the role of Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard in the West End.
We caught up with the singer to chat about the role, the challenge that she faces as well as what is on the horizon from a music perspective.
- You are going to be making your West End theatre debut in September in The Bodyguard so how excited are you to be stepping out onto a very different stage?
It is an extremely different stage. I am very excited; it should be really cool. I think that doing something that stretches you and takes you outside of your comfort zone is an important thing for anyone to do.
It sounds as though it wouldn’t be a massive reach - you are singing in a theatre rather than in a music venue, but it really is because there is so much more involved with all the acting. So, I am really excited.
- Have you had any acting experience at all?
Only from childhood. When I was a child, I did musical theatre every single year from primary school right through to just before I went to university.
Every single year, sometimes twice a year, there was a production, and I was in. Often because of my voice I was the lead; it was quite funny when I was cast as Sandy in Grease, it was like ‘ooohhh controversy’.
That was a long long long time ago and since leaving school, I haven’t done anything like that as it has been music all the way. So it really is very exciting.
- You will be playing the role of Rachel Marron in the show so how did the role come about? And what attracted you to it?
Lots of people were talking about the fact that they were going to re-cast for The Bodyguard; I remember when they were going to make The Bodyguard thinking ‘that is going to be brilliant’.
Then I heard that it was being commissioned and made and then went on to the West End with Heather Headley in the starring role; quite rightly so, in my opinion, as she is just a titan of musical theatre.
So when I heard that it was being re-cast I thought ‘Whitney did it before me, and she was a singer without any acting experience. Why not?
If Whitney can do it without any acting experience, then why can’t I?’ Ultimately it is a role about a singer, and I felt that I just had to give it a go. So I gave it a go, and the rest is history (laughs).
- The part of Rachel Marron is obviously a very iconic one so how nervous/excited about being able to put your own stamp on the character as well as these songs?
When it comes to interpreting the songs, that is the bit that worries me the least because that is what I do; whether it’s m own songs that I express my own way because I have written them or whether it is someone else’s songs.
These are songs that are brilliantly written and are about life and love and loss - at my age, I have been there and done that, and so I can bring my own experiences to those songs.
It is a fine line between making it entirely mine and keeping within the character and what people are expecting to hear; I can’t totally re-interpret the songs as I have to keep a faithfulness so that the audience aren’t like ‘what? It doesn’t go like that Beverley’.
The acting side is where I really need to pull my sleeves up and really pull my game together.
I will be trying as much as I can to capture the vulnerability of the Rachel Marron character; because I think, it is quite easy to dislike her as she is not very nice to poor Frank Farmer.
Also you know she is this worldwide star, but you want to like her and want her to be protected. So I am going to do my best to pull out that side as well as the ‘let’s get diva’ side as well (laughs). I can’t wait it is going to be brilliant.
- Thea Sharrock is the director if the show so have you discussed about how you are going to make this character your own?
With these initial stages, all I have done it the actual audition. During the audition, she was directing me on stage; which was the first time, as an adult at least, that anything like that had happened to me before. Because I not into rehearsals, they begin 5th August, I haven’t got to that stage.
But I am sure that Thea will be looking to pull out the different complexities of Rachel’s character - she is quite a complex character.
The fact that Thea comes from a straight theatre background and not musical theatre will be brilliant for me. She will concentrate so much more on me getting those aspects of Rachel’s character across to the audience.
- Have you seen the show?
Yes, I have seen it, and I thought it was great. The film is very Hollywood (laughs) - particularly the ending when you find out whodunit - the stage production is far more realistic.
You can absolutely conceive of this happening to a huge star; in fact, it has happened to huge stars. So it is more palatable than perhaps the movie is. I think it is brilliant; I really do.
I heard that Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote The Bodyguard, really loved this stage production because it is much closer to his original vision.
- The last time we spoke you were getting ready to release Soul UK so what have you been up to between then and now?
Oh my god, I have worked so hard on touring and promoting Soul UK, and that was an absolute joy. So I did that for all of 2011. 2012 was a year of two halves as there was all the promotion that I did for Soul UK and the touring, which was fantastic, and then there was me getting ready to get married.
So from spring to summer it was just all about me getting married. Oh, I also did the Paralympics as well. So I was rehearsing for that an arranging some music bits for that.
So it was a really full on and fantastic year; it was the best year of my life, I have to say. This year has just been full on with festivals and all of those types of things as well. It has been a busy and fantastic time.
- How was your whole Paralympic Games experience?
Oh my god!!! I don’t know who it was that threw my name in the hat but thank you so much as it was bloody brilliant. I was so chuffed to be part of something that had us Brits out there showing what we are and who we are to the world.
I was so privileged to be the mouth piece, if you know what I mean? For the Paralympians in singing I Am What I Am. What an honour. It was just fantastic.
And I got to go to both the Olympics and the Paralympics as well, so I got to see the action up close and personal. Last year was just such an amazing year.
- Soul UK was your seventh studio album so is an eighth on the horizon?
There will be if I ever get chance to scratch my head and get busy with it. There will absolutely be an eighth studio album, and I am very much looking forward to getting my head around that.
- So will you be balancing theatre with work on a new album? Or are you going to just focus on The Bodyguard for now?
Because this is my first time and I honestly don’t know what to expect until I stand on that stage on 9th September for opening night I am putting all of my energy into making sure that I deliver the best performance I can.
And then, hopefully, as the weeks turn into months I will be able to feel that I have a bit more head space to say ‘I think I am alright with this so now I can think about the next record’.
- Finally how long will your run be with the show?
At the very least six months, at least. Oh yeah, they put to work (laughs) there’s no slacking. It is going to be great.
Beverley Knight joins the cast of The Bodyguard at the Adelphi Theatre from 9 September thebodyguardmusical.com 0844 579 0094
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