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Queen Of The Night

The stage musical version of hit Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner movie The Bodyguard is stopping off in Birmingham for Christmas. Playing the part of Rachel Marron - the character made famous by Houston in the 1992 film - is Australian singer Emily Williams, who first played the role six years ago. What’s On recently caught up with her to find out more...

This Christmas, singer & actress Emily Williams takes on the role of Rachel Marron in blockbuster musical The Bodyguard at Birmingham theatre The Alexandra.
It’s the second time the New Zealand-born performer has played the lead part in the show, which is based on the famous 1992 movie starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner.
Rachel Marron is a superstar singer at the height of her fame. But when she begins receiving death threats from a sinister stalker, her manager hires former secret-service agent Frank Farmer as a bodyguard to keep her and her young son safe.

The story provides an insight into the sometimes scary world of stardom, and Emily, who shot to fame as runner-up on television talent show Australian Idol, says she can very much relate to that fear. Having been part of successful Australian all-girl group Young Divas, and then building a solo career, she knows only too well what it’s like to be in the spotlight.
“I’ve gone through similar experiences and situations as Rachel in the show,” says Emily, who first played the part back in 2017. “So I can now identify why she acts the way she does, how these scenarios would come up, and why she gets so frustrated all the time.
“I think there’s more understanding of the character than I had seven years ago. I now understand the idea of having so many security guards around. And the idea that you’ve had some obsessed fans that have sent you some really interesting things - you have to open up that fan mail.
“There have been shows when it’s actually been a bit scary on stage because you know there are some really strange people out there who love you to the point of no return. I’ve been through all of that, and I understand a bit about it.”

While Emily is quick to point out that she has never received death threats like those sent to her character, she has sometimes needed bodyguards.
“I do now understand the idea of singing at big shows and having all that security and having people beside you 24/7. As soon as you get onsite, these security guards won’t let you out of their sight. Even when you’re in the dressing room, there are two or three standing outside. 
“So I do understand that side of it, and I can understand the frustration of Rachel, where she thinks she knows what’s going on but she actually doesn’t safety-wise. So to know and to have experienced some of the things she’s gone through has helped me understand her more.
“I think the UK has got the best version of me playing Rachel. Back in 2017 when I played her, I was so excited to sing those songs that I hadn’t really connected with the character as much as I do today.”

But, says Emily, being in the public eye is part of the experience of being a performer.
“When I found my own fame, I realised this is something you can’t escape from, so either you learn to deal with it or you drown. You sink or you swim.
“Rachel is very sharp but yet very vulnerable in certain parts of the show. When you first meet her, you don’t realise that - but then, as you watch, you begin to see these vulnerable parts of her. My favourite part of playing her is showing people how vulnerable she really is. She’s this absolute goddess of a superstar, but there’s more to her than just that.”

The part of bodyguard Frank is played by Ayden Callaghan, who’s best known for playing Miles De Souza in Emmerdale and Joe Roscoe in Hollyoaks. 
Emily says Rachel’s behaviour towards Frank is probably her least attractive quality.
“What I don’t like about her is probably the way she treats Frank in the beginning; it’s pretty full-on.”
Emily first discovered the film as a teenager but was a fan of Whitney Houston long before that.
“I started singing at a young age and was listening to Whitney’s songs. The music from this film is timeless.”

And she loves being able to perform hits such as I Will Always Love You, Queen Of The Night, I Have Nothing, The Greatest Love Of All and How Will I Know.
“Probably the biggest challenge of the role is having to sing those difficult high-pitched songs every night - but at the same time, I’m so grateful to be singing those songs because not everybody can pull that off. You need a lot of sleep. You have to have the eight hours - a lot of rest, honey! - and don’t talk when you don’t need to.
“There are so many highlights of the show, but mine would probably be the end, when I sing I Will Always Love You. That’s always a moment, and I feel like if I don’t get that moment right, then I definitely haven’t done my job. The audience have been waiting for that moment, so I have to nail it.”

The Alexandra performances will be the first time Emily has visited Birmingham - and she is particularly looking forward to seeing it under the Christmas lights.
“It excites me to perform around Christmas. I know absolutely nothing about Birmingham, so I’m really looking forward to going there. I think a lot of the cast and crew members are really excited to show me around; they say it’s a beautiful place.”

And she is understandably keen for Birmingham theatre-goers to take a night off from pantomime and check out The Bodyguard.
“I hope everyone just really enjoys themselves. I want them to understand the story and what it’s all about. It’s such an incredible show. I feel like everyone will walk away either crying or blown away by how great it is.”

by Diane Parkes