Deborah Cox :: Broadway Bound in ’Jekyll & Hyde’
When it comes to disco dance icons, few can equal Deborah Cox. Since being discovered by Clive Davis nearly twenty years ago, the Canadian born singer has achieved 11 #1 hits on Billboard's Hot Dance Play charts. "Nobody's Suppose To Be Here," her double-platinum 1998 hit, had (up to that point) the unprecedented record of 14 weeks as #1 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.
But did you know she is also an accomplished musical theater performer? In 2004 she took over the title role on Broadway of Aida in the Elton John/Tim Rice musical during its closing months. And currently she's touring in the pre-Broadway tryout of the revival of Jekyll & Hyde, where she plays Lucy, the role made famous by Linda Eder during the show's first Broadway run.
The show heads to Broadway in April; but Dallas audiences have their opportunity to see Cox and co-star Constantine Maroulis (from "American Idol" fame) in the musical that plays at the AT&T Performing Arts Center through December 16, 2012, prior to runs in Philadelphia, Providence, Denver, Los Angeles and Chicago. (To see if the show is coming to a theater near you, visit the show's website.
Ms. Cox graciously talked with EDGE regarding her career, her music, "Jekyll & Hyde," and why she is such a strong advocate for the gay community
Her gay fan base
EDGE: What put Human Rights/Gay rights on the radar for you?
Deborah Cox: It’s close to my heart. I have a lot of very, very dear friends who have not only had to deal with being black or being gay so that whenever there is an opportunity to use my celebrity to bring some awareness to some of these causes I jump at the opportunity.
EDGE: How did you develop such a fervent gay fan base?
Deborah Cox: That happened over time and organically. I never would have thought that my career and music would have resonated with the audience. I just simply do music. I sing. And I make sure that it comes from the heart and soul. I just believe that everyone should be treated fairly and I believe in doing things out of love. That’s always been my perspective.
That’s how I grew up - in a very multi-cultural society in Toronto. Poor people were just poor, it didn’t matter if you were black, white, gay, straight, lesbian...you’re poor you’re poor. You’re rich, you’re rich. In Canada, it’s slightly different. The whole racial issue is not as overt there. I grew up very different in a very multicultural society having all kinds of different types of people in my own family.
EDGE: You arrive in Dallas on the heels of World AIDS Day 2012. Why do you think it is important to remember World AIDS Day?
Deborah Cox: Right now, when you talk about AIDS there is still a stigma attached to it that it is a gay disease and I know that it’s not. It affects a lot of women. It is the leading cause of death for African-American women in the US. The numbers are staggering. I have done some work just recently with a great organization called Positive Young People (PYP.) PYP is trying to bring attention to this. A lot of people think that with all the money that has been raised over the years that we are closer to a cure but we’re not. AIDS is still out there; it is still very prevalent in many communities.
EDGE: You’ve had great success in your career. Do you recall the moment that you knew you made it?
Deborah Cox: Wow. When I was singing with Whitney Houston.
When I first heard the song ’Saving All My Love For You,’ it was the first time that I had ever heard anybody doing anything close to what I dreamed of doing; having this jazzy soulful song with range and amazing melody. When I heard her sing that, it became the benchmark of what I wanted to do.
Fast forward to 2000-20001 and we’re recording and getting ready to do ’Same Script, Different Cast,’ I found myself in the studio with Whitney Houston, my mentor, my idol, sharing the microphone and singing eye to eye, toe-to-toe. And that will always be a highlight to me.
EDGE: Now you are playing the role of Lucy in the Broadway-bound revival of ’Jekyll & Hyde.’ Tell us about your approach to Lucy.
Deborah Cox: Its most important for me to bring my own personal experience to connect with the character and with Lucy, she’s a survivor and I’m a survivor as well in the sense that I didn’t grow up with a whole lot of money. I really had to work hard; I come from a really hard working family. And to want to do the arts at an early age, it was not as common as it is now. It made me jump into the business fearlessly. I was able to sing commercial jingles, sing background vocals and to do it all. In that sense being a survivor, Lucy and I completely relate.
When she deals with ’Jekyll & Hyde’ she has to deal with mental illness. She has to deal with the broken part of him. She finds hope in Jekyll so she can get out of her situation. Then there is this complex relationship she has with Hyde, which is also abusive. I’ve had to deal with mental illness as well...stepping on eggshells around family members who were ill. So it was me bringing that to the character that helped me develop Lucy. And I’m still discovering things about her while we are doing the show.
EDGE: Lucy is physically abused and meets a tragic end in ’Jekyll & Hyde.’ How do you prepare mentally and physically for these scenes?
Deborah Cox: It’s a challenge to play because I’m a spirited and strong person. It’s hard to be submissive. I’m not sure if Lucy is as strong as I am emotionally. There are a lot of things that Lucy does or puts up with that I certainly would not. So that is the struggle to play. I’m much more of a fighter. So there is a lot of restraint that I’m using when I am playing this character and that’s very different.
EDGE: We’ve been following your reviews since ’Jekyll & Hyde’ opened in September. Do you read your notices?
Deborah Cox: Oh, man. That’s a love/hate relationship with the reviews. Sometimes I’m drawn to reading them and other times I’ve wished I had never read them.
EDGE: You’ve been receiving glowing reviews for ’Jekyll & Hyde’ being called ’stirring,’ ’perfect,’ ’stunningly beautiful,’ ’a surprising range,’ and ’mesmerizing.’ How does it feel to have your work so positively praised?
Deborah Cox: It is humbling. It is. I’m using my own instincts and I’m just drawing from my heart and soul and for that to resonate feels like the job is well done. It feels like its leaving people with something and inspiring people and ultimately that’s what I want to do as a singer but as an actress that’s my goal - to leave people with something positive. So, that’s amazing.
EDGE: You’ve worked with a Who’s Who pedigreed list of performers. Tell us the first thing that comes to mind when we mention: Clive Davis
Deborah Cox: Clive Davis to me is mentor, icon and living legend. He really taught me a lot about the business and a lot about songwriting and artistry. We butted heads along the way, because like any artist I wanted to do certain songs, but he had a different vision.
EDGE: Celine Dion?
Deborah Cox: Extreme discipline. That woman does not speak before a show. Regimented.
EDGE: Andrea Bocelli?
Deborah Cox: What is the word - He is a vocal force. He just has this amazing gift from God. I literally got the call the night before to do the O2 in London and I flew in, my room wasn’t ready, I had to hang out in the gorgeous lobby of this London hotel and I just craved this long nap - and I never did get it -and four hours later I found myself in the dressing room of the O2 doing my vocal warm ups with Andrea and we just worked out the parts on the piano and he just stood there and blew out - filled up the whole room and we weren’t live or anything we were just running through the songs. His core is just amazing. An epic voice. It just touches the core of me. His instrument is very special.
EDGE: Whitney Houston?
Deborah Cox: She impacted me the same way that Bocelli did. When you can stand in front of a person that has this just amazing gift and you just know that it is a gift from God. It just touches you in a way that you can’t explain. All the hairs of your body stand up because it gives you shivers and chills. That’s how it was with Bocelli and that’s how it was with Whitney.
Most rewarding achievement
EDGE: What is your most personal rewarding career achievement so far?
Deborah Cox: To still be here in 2012. Standing in front of thousands every single night. I’ve always dreamed of longevity. I look to artists like Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand and Dorothy Dandridge. - All the iconic women who have come before me who left me an amazing legacy for me go follow and that’s what I inspire to be. And I’m still here. I feel very fortunate.
EDGE: What’s next?
Deborah Cox: Oh, more music. I’m excited about getting into the studios and finish what I’ve started because I’ve had 2 albums essentially in the works now. By the time we get to Broadway I’ll have time to actually finish them. The American Music Broadway Album that I’m working on with Frank Wildhorn (’Jekyll & Hyde’s’ music and lyrics) will be coming out in the summer of 2013. The R&B pop album will probably be done in the fall. There is a concept album of ’Jekyll & Hyde’ available at the theater and on Amazon and we’ll go into production of the cast album later on next year.
EDGE: Are you still having fun?
Deborah Cox: I am having more fun than ever. It’s a great show, a great cast. Director Jeff Calhoun. Constantine Maroulis is a powerhouse himself; an energetic passionate performer. It’s a great time to work with a great team and makes for a fun time every show.
Jekyll & Hyde continues at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas, TX through December 16, 2012. For more information about the show, visit the show’s website.
The show is playing Providence, R.I., Jan. 1 through 6 at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets begin at $41. For more information, go to www.ppacri.org.
Watch this video montage of Deborah Cox and Constantine Maroulis performing songs from "Jekyll & Hyde":