TORONTO – In stepping into the roles made famous by Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, the stars of the stage adaptation of “The Bodyguard” have no plans to merely mimic their big-screen counterparts.
“As tempting as it was to look at the film version, it was a case of not having that burdening your mind or getting in the way of building your own character,” said British soul sensation Beverley Knight, who portrays pop superstar Rachel Marron in the musical, now playing at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre.
Stuart Reid, who plays former Secret Service agent and titular “Bodyguard” Frank Farmer, said he also wanted to start “with a blank canvas.”
“I didn’t refer back to the film because I didn’t want to take residue from that and then sort of copycat it and put it back on the stage,” said Reid, who hails from Northern Ireland. “At the end of the day, you’re sort of cheating yourself and you’re cheating the audience.
“I know a lot of people would have an expectation of who they would want; but for me, to come from it from the pure angle, I need to then come at it from my own — and not Kevin Costner.”
The affable actors are part of the London West End company who made the journey across the Atlantic to stage the show in Canada, following the end of a recent sold-out, six-month run in the U.K.
The Mirvish production is one of several theatrical incarnations of “The Bodyguard” based on the 1992 romantic thriller. Toronto-born R&B and pop star Deborah Cox is headlining the U.S. tour, while other productions are slated to open in Milan and Sydney. Engagements are planned later in the year in Madrid, Stuttgart and China.
In addition to being a box-office hit, “The Bodyguard” still holds the distinction of featuring the best-selling soundtrack album in history — 45 million copies worldwide. The juggernaut album includes “I’m Every Woman,” “I Have Nothing,” “Queen of the Night” and the chart-topping smash that became the late Houston’s signature hit: “I Will Always Love You.”
“When you’re singing songs that are beautifully crafted, you find beauty every single time,” said Knight.
“It’s a testament to the power of a great song and, of course, the power of a great voice that Whitney had wrapped around all of that kind of showing us all the way.”
Both Knight and Reid said the enduring power of the film and stage production lie in the universal themes at the core of “The Bodyguard.”
“Ultimately, it’s not a story of two people — one white, one black — it’s a story of two worlds that have just collided,” said Knight. “Still, they found enough in each other’s personalities and each other’s circumstances to hold onto each other in this whirlwind of madness.
“I think people … can empathize with a crazy situation going on and yet, within it, there is this person that brings stillness and surety and comfort to them.”
Reid said the age-old opposites-attract story is also a central part of its appeal.
“It’s about the love and chemistry between two individuals who are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum,” he said. “They might have so much separating them in terms of where their lifestyles are, but they have this one thing that unites them completely….
“We’ve all either been in love with someone or had our hearts broken, so it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white from anywhere … we all feel the same.”
“The Bodyguard” is on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto until April 9.
By Lauren LaRose
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