Express & Star

The Bodyguard at Birmingham's Alexandra Theatre is an essential alternative to panto

Our theatres are dominated by pantomime as we head towards the festive season.

Emily Williams stars in The Bodyguard

But singer Emily Williams will instead by channelling her inner Whitney Houston as she stars in The Bodyguard, at The Alexandra Birmingham.

The show starts today and runs right up to the end of December.

Williams stars as Rachel Marron and is no stranger to the spotlight. The multi-platinum Australian recording artist has been thrilling audiences in the role as she tours the show around the UK and Ireland.

The musical is based on the Oscar-nominated movie and features a host of irresistible classics including Queen of the Night, I Have Nothing, I Wanna Dance with Somebody and one of the biggest hit songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.

The Bodyguard is a much-loved movie, even now, over 30-years on. And Williams was a fan from day one.

"Yes, I was a fan of the movie – who wasn’t at that time?! It’s one of the best movies ever made. If I were to have missed it, I don’t think I’d be able to sing the way I do now to be honest with you. I don’t know many vocalists nowadays who don’t regard Whitney Houston as their go-to vocal goddess of all goddesses! She was an absolute queen, and she dominated the entire 90s. I’m so glad I was able to experience her while she was alive and see her in her prime."

Williams was asked to lead the UK tour, having previously starred in The Bodyguard in Australia. She was keen to return and feels she has a better understanding of what's required.

"I think when I played the role in Australia in 2017, I was more excited to be singing the songs than understanding and connecting deeply to the character of Rachel Marron. To get to come back and dive completely into my interpretation of Rachel, I now understand her so much better. I feel like the UK and Ireland tour are going to get the best of me in this role."

That better understanding means Williams can more accurately inhabit her character, Rachel Marron.

"Rachel Marron is strong, she’s an incredible performer, a beautiful mother, and very protective of the people around her. She’s someone that thought she knew what was going on around her, and was in control of everything, but comes to realise that she doesn’t have full control of certain parts of her career. That’s the moment where you see the vulnerability, that’s where you see her crash and explore parts of herself that she wouldn’t show the public."

Williams rose to fame on Australian Idol and subsequently became part of the acclaimed girl group Young Divas. Her experience as a successful songstress influences her interpretation of the role of Rachel Marron and there are plenty of parallels.

"There are heaps of parallels! The first song I ever recorded after the finale of Australian Idol was ‘I Will Always Love You’, but the thing that really connects me and Rachel Marron is the fact that I’ve been on stages like her. I understand the fans, and the stalkers that can come with being part of the industry. I understand the stardom, with people and cameras everywhere, so I feel like I understand her as a person. I would say another key connection is that we’re both mothers, so I am able to draw from personal experiences and throw them into her character.

"During the rehearsals I came to realise that my interpretation of Rachel Marron is rooted in realism, because this is my life. You must live through those years to be able stand in these shoes. I know there have been a lot of Rachel’s before me, but I feel that if you haven’t experienced a bit of what is going on within the industry, you won’t know how to handle this role."

Entering the industry through a reality competition can be tough, though Williams had a good experience. She received helpful guidance from people within the industry when you started.

"I’m kind of lucky because I have a famous sister (Lavinia Williams), so I was the younger sibling watching my sister who had been in the industry for a very long time. At the age of 13, I opened for Tina Turner alongside her because her group, Ma-V-Elle, were so big - they were the first Polynesian group in New Zealand to break out, so they were opening for a lot of amazing people. I met a lot of famous people while I was still a young girl, so I was exposed to the industry early on.

"The older I got, the more knowledge I gained about being in the scene, with the biggest guidance being my sister. It was Lavinia that told me to go and audition for Australian Idol. I was happy just being a normal forklift-driving mum, but I went, and the rest is history.

"The best advice to others is to be yourself. I know that’s so cliché, but back when I started in the industry it was hard to be yourself. This current generation are allowed to be authentic and express themselves, but back then you had to be a certain way. I just wish I had told myself that ‘you are enough’ and allowed myself to be whatever I wanted to be.

I restricted myself to a certain extent. I needed to know my place in the world. I was so lost, feeling like I was living under someone else’s shadow, so I didn’t know how to be myself or find who I was – I used to look at others and copy them, without having any self-identity."

While people draw up Christmas lists, Williams has just one festive wish. "I want audiences to leave knowing that it was one of the best shows they’ve ever seen. I want them to feel every single emotion that we’re giving on the stage from beginning to end, and then celebrate with me in the finale. I want them to feel like they’ve been taken on a journey. For anyone who has never seen the show before, it is definitely a show you don’t want to miss; it should be on your bucket list."

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