BWW Interview: Beverley Knight on THE BODYGUARD
In addition to her recording career, soul queen Beverley Knight has become a musical theatre star, beginning with her acclaimed performance as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard in 2013, followed by lead roles in Memphis The Musical and Cats. She's now returned to The Bodyguard for a new West End run of the show at Dominion Theatre.
What made you decide to return to The Bodyguard?
I was asked to return to the show, which of course was hugely flattering, so I accepted. I felt it was a production that deserved its place on a West End stage, as it is so spectacular, and it was great to be asked to head up the cast.
How does your experience compare to your first run?
The role of Rachel is probably one of the busiest roles on any stage, but I am totally prepared for that having already done it. I know how to pace myself for the long run. I'm having even more fun with it this time around, and that's a load of fun! Although I was there three years ago, myself and Ben Richards are the newbies, as the current cast have been working together for a long time on the UK tour. I decided to approach the show with an entirely new "head", as so much about it was different.
Did anything new strike you in the show, coming back to it?
The show has been re-choreographed by Karen Bruce and is simply stunning. The opening number "Queen of the Night" has incredible impact, as does "I'm Every Woman". A couple of scenes have changed and a couple of characters written out of the show. The song "The Greatest Love of All" forms the basis of part of a scene adapted from an early version that had no song. The result is more emphasis on Fletcher, Rachel's son being her greatest love, and the impact that has on the drama that unfolds.
What makes Rachel Marron a great role to play, and what do you think you bring to it?
Rachel at first comes across as a stereotypical diva, but as the story goes on we discover she is much more than her stony appearance. She has layers and her first layer is resistance, which over time peels away to reveal the vulnerability inside. That makes her an exciting character to play.
As a character she is not like me at all - I'm a cheery, open person, so it's great playing someone who is so different to me. I think I bring out her more human, softer side. As a singer-songwriter myself I completely understand her lifestyle and what comes with it (her entourage etc.), whilst feeling the need to maintain a separate private life.
What's your favourite number to perform?
I enjoy "I Have Nothing", as it is quite simply a absolute stunner of a song, melodically and lyrically. Wish I'd written it!
Do you have more confidence now after doing other roles? And what lessons did you take from Memphis or Cats?
I feel more confident going into shows, especially as they've been one after the other. From both Memphis and Cats I learned that rest is very important to maintain vocal and physical health. I've never been great at resting! Audiences need to connect with your soul and you have to lay it out for them onstage. You can't do that if you start Act One knackered.
Cats was a brilliant exercise in keeping connected to a show even when you're not onstage front and centre the whole time. I spent offstage time listening and often watching the show from the wings.
Do you feel as much like an actress as a singer now?
I am and will always be known and I hope loved as a singer in the first instance, especially at home. However, with each acting role I feel more and more comfortable with people describing me as a singer and actress. It's wonderful to have both careers working in tandem.
What's surprised you most about working in theatre?
Theatre has much more camaraderie than being a solo artist. That was a wonderful surprise, as it is so often and boringly portrayed as "bitchy". There may be those elements within the industry, but personally I have yet to experience it! The show remains the star, as casts come and go, and I've loved how welcoming everyone has been.
How did your acting experience contribute to your new album?
I had to go to Memphis to research my role as Felicia in Memphis The Musical, resulting in me returning to record in Royal Studios, which I visited on that trip. I was so glad the producers sent me there - it was, to a musician like me, Mecca! I loved it, and Memphis influenced the style of my album. One of my most favourite places ever!
What are your dream future projects? More musicals or theatre? Broadway?
I am open for whatever comes next, be it a musical or a play. Home or away. I am off to Canada with The Bodyguard, something I didn't imagine I would do three years ago. So now anything is possible, certainly Broadway.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring singers or musical theatre actresses?
You have to love what you do. That will drive and be the motivation for everything, whether ensemble, supporting role or lead, whether a backing vocal gig or front and centre. Love it. People read joy and joy is infectious and makes you stand out. Love makes you practise harder, and practice is key to honing your craft.
Photo credit: Alessandro Pinna