“Who doesn’t love the music of Whitney Houston?” It’s a statement made by two ladies sat next to us during The Bodyguard musical, and a question that stays in our mind throughout the entirety of watching the show.
The truth is, we’re pretty sure everyone does. She is, after all an icon of the music world. But with her sad passing comes a new way to enjoy her disco and vocal classics in the returning West End musical, The Bodyguard. And the lady undertaking the job of singing the songs nightly? The powerhouse voice of Beverley Knight.
Following the opening of the show this past week in London, we joined its star Beverley Knight and co-star Ben Richards to find out what it’s like bringing this much-loved film to the stage.
Beverley, when you know I Will Always Love You is next — what does that feel like? Bev: To be honest, that technically doesn’t have a lot of range, it just has a lot of power so it’s a very dynamic song. It’s a fun feeling and you know exactly how the crowd will respond. It’s just a really nice feeling when the curtain goes up, I walk forward and go up on the lift. It’s just like, YUP! [Laughs]
Which is the hardest song for you to sing? Bev: Technically, I Have Nothing. A, it’s a ballad. B, it’s in 6 over 8 times so has the almost waltz feel and it changes key and changes key again; and it’s written with a lot of range so breathing is everything. Technically that one is the toughest, but it’s my favourite.
We all know you can sing, Ben — how hard is it to sing out of tune? Ben: It’s really tricky because you start going into singing mode and then no, no, that’s almost starting to sound OK. I’m not allowed to go too bad so I’m trying to find the middle ground. [Laughs]
You’ve gone from The Bodyguard to Memphis, then Cats and now this show again. Do you feel a little more seasoned now? Bev: I feel like I kind of know what I’m doing a bit. With the first time I did this role, it was OK. I was following a lot of instinct. This time, I felt a lot more settled and I understand in more detail who she is and why she behaves the way she does.
As a singer, did you ever imagine this would be your career? Bev: No, I did musical theatre as a kid and loved it so continued it into my uni years. I left it there as my intention was I’m going to sing, I’m going to write, I’m going to perform. I never imagined it would be this kind of performance in this time in my life. I’m happy about it!
What are your memories of Whitney? Bev: God, vocally, she changed everything when she came along. I remember watching Top of the Pops, Saving All My Love For You was number one and I remember screaming, “Cynthia, my sister, you’ve got to see this woman on the telly! Oh my God!”
What she was doing, not only with her range, but with her power. Who had seen anything like that before? We hadn’t! The last person that came along and vocally changed the way everybody sang was Aretha. And before her, Ella Fitzgerald. Then when Whitney came along and everything changed again.
You couldn’t helped but be influenced by Whitney, such was her all-powering, all-conquering voice.
How do you keep it fresh every night? Bev: For me, every night is different and every audience is different.
Ben: As a seasoned actor, when you watch someone like Beverley up on stage, and I’m lucky because I get to watch her every night absolutely smash it, there’s never anything less than 100 per cent! For someone like Beverley to come out and perform like that is incredible. She has incredible stamina.
And finally, is Broadway calling for The Bodyguard? Ben: At the moment, we’re here up until January, a little break, and then we’re off to Canada. We’re going to be three months in Toronto.
Bev: In the cold! [Laughs]
Read our full review of The Bodyguard here.