deborah cox

DeborAh Cox (photo, courtesy of the Hartman Group)

*GRAMMY®-nominated R&B superstar Deborah Cox is back on Broadway, starring in the musical Jekyll & Hyde.

She’s winning rave reviews from critics and theater-goers alike for her role as Lucy, a lady of the night with a yearning for a better life, who captures the attention of both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, played by Tony nominee and American idol star Constantine Maroulis, in this dark and sexy new production.

A multi-platinum selling and a multi-talented entertainer, Cox has conquered the R&B and pop charts, including six top-20 Billboard magazine R&B singles, an impressive eleven #1 hits on Billboard‘s Hot Dance Club Play chart. She made her Broadway debut in the lead role in Elton John’s and Tim Rice’s Broadway musical, Aida. Jekyll & Hyde opened on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre on April 18, for a 13-week limited engagement.  The show comes to Broadway after a national tour, during which Cox thrilled audiences with her lustrous vocals, sexy and touching performance, sizzling chemistry with her leading man and commanding stage presence.

Inside Broadway: 
You have been receiving rave reviews for your starring role as Lucy in the new production of the musical Jekyll & Hyde, how did you come to do this role?

Deborah Cox:        
The Nederlanders, who are the producers of the show, approached me about the role. I didn’t know that there was a female character in this production because I’d never seen the original. I was familiar with [the show’s composer] Frank Wildhorn’s music because he was the one who wrote of one on my favorite Whitney Houston songs, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go.” I knew of his music from the pop and R&B world. So I read the script, listened to the music, and I found out the team that was involved.  It included Leslie Bricusse [books and lyrics], who’s got a lot of legendary and iconic productions under his belt. He wrote the Sammy Davis Jr. hit, “The Candy Man,” as well as the music for Dr. Doolittle. Also, director Jeff Calhoun was brought on board, and I felt very comfortable with his vision and what he wanted to do with the show. And, of course, I thought Constantine being cast in the show was a great fit. I think he’s got an amazing big voice and big presence. I thought that the overall team would be great to work with.  The hardest decision to make was based on the fact that the show was going out on the road to twenty cites. That’s a long time and I have other priorities now as well. It’s not just about me and my career. I also have a young family. But I knew that this was a role that doesn’t come around very often. So I talked it over with my husband and my team and we made the whole thing work. I’m really happy I did because I’m really in a good place artistically, and being back on Broadway at the Marquis is a dream come true. I’m just relishing this moment.

IB:
The character you play works in a Victorian brothel, but audiences really seem to connect to her, and root for her. What is it about Lucy that touches theater goers’ hearts?

DC:
It’s the fact that she is a complex survivor. She’s a woman that is looking for love, looking for a safe place. You root for her because you know she has great intentions, she’s got a heart for something better, but she’s in a bad situation.  I think you experience her journey when you’re watching the show and you see her trying to get out of this crappy situation she’s in. You know she’s on a quest to find a better life and a better place, and to find true love and respect. When she meets Henry Jekyll, she finally meets someone who emotionally takes her out of the hell that she has been experiencing all her life. She does a one-eighty and tries to get out of that situation. I think a lot of us have that in us—we have that fight, we have that need and that want for something better and greater. The story of Jekyll & Hyde doesn’t just deal with Henry; I think it deals with all of the characters in the show—it’s universal. We all have a time in our life when we have to show a façade until we can get to a place where we can really, truly be ourselves. Sometimes we get there and sometimes we don’t.  Lucy is very hopeful and she’s an optimist. I think we share those attributes.

IB:     
Your role is a very demanding one. It’s dramatic and emotional and your songs are all powerful show stoppers. How do you bring the energy and emotion to the role and to those songs night after night?

DC:
We toured with the show for about seven months through all the major cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Buffalo and Philadelphia. We had a really great run on the road, so it gave me the opportunity to really get the character of Lucy in my bones and in my spirit, and to discover her and tweak her every step of the way until we got to Broadway. It’s always a work in progress, but I feel like I know the approach that needs to be taken with the character. It’s all about trying to find the nuances so that it seems real and it doesn’t seem like I’m acting. And music really helps me find a new place to pull from before a performance.  When I’m in my dressing room, I have those quiet moments where I go into another zone and I listen to the music and I get centered and focused  to get out there and do the show. It requires discipline because life is happening as well. I still have other things and projects to do. But that hour before the show is when I re-center and refocus. Whatever is going on outside, I leave it all out there and I get into the “Lucy Zone.” That helps me take a fresh approach every single night.

IB:     
What is your favorite song to sing in the show, and why?

DC:
That’s a tough one. One of the things I love about musical theater and being in a live stage production is that it’s profoundly new every single night.  You don’t know what to expect because there is going to be a different reaction from the audience every night. There are some nights when it’s “A New Life,” and some nights it’s “Someone Like You,” and some nights it’s “Sympathy Tenderness,” which is the moment just before she kisses Henry.  And then sometimes it’s “Bring on the Men,” because it’s such a fun number that it allows me to escape. Lucy is such a sexy, sultry, complex woman, that every night it’s a different, fun moment. At this point in my career, it’s the perfect role because I get to go onstage and sing these epic songs every single night.  I also get to be on stage and be really sexy and vampy and to explore this whole other side of myself that I’ve never revealed before.

IB:
Jekyll & Hyde is based on a dark story by Robert Louis Stevenson, with murder and mayhem. Who is the audience for this show?

DC:
The audience for this show is more mature. Although, we have had some really young people—10 to 11 years old—come to the show and get it. They understand the dark side.  I think it’s a good date-night show because it’s very sexy; it’s very edgy and dark. If you like a story that is suspenseful and thrilling, but also sexy, then it’s the show for you. It’s got a little bit of Downtown Abbey/Twilight, with the whole Victorian thing. The people who have waited at the stage door to get autographs have been mainly from the younger demographics—college kids and up. I feel like we really have a wide demographic now because of the way that the story told. Its foundation is an old tale and a premise that everyone can relate to. But it’s told in a modern way. Visually it’s beautifully done. The costumes and sets are beautifully designed, and I think the older set can appreciate that. Musically it has all these different styles. It’s not just your traditional Broadway style, but it has a bit of a pop and rock edge. So I think the audiences leave with a much bigger meal than what they were expecting.

IB:
Can you share some behind-the-scenes stories about the cast of Jekyll & Hyde—particularly your costar Constantine Maroulis?

DC:
It’s a small cast with a lot of veterans and we don’t have any kids in the show, and that’s kind of fun because we have our moments when we go out and have wine, talk and get silly. Constantine and I really hit it off the first day that we met, which was on set when we were doing our photo session. We just clicked. I think it’s because we’re so passionate about what we do, and we put 150 percent into the roles we’re playing because we’re sort of the underdogs in this world, with him coming from the American Idol brand and myself coming from the record world. We were so busy on the road, and on our days off, myself and Constantine were always working or doing press. But there were times when we’d go to clubs and hang out, dance and have fun and relieve stress. It’s a very dark kind of show, so you have to lighten up a bit.  So we would just go and let our hair down and party and dance and be crazy.

IB:
You were on Broadway in 2004, playing the lead role in the musical Aida.  Between then and now you have continued your highly successful career. So what brought you back to the Great White Way?

DC:
The role in Aida was the one that reignited that little spark that I had. I grew up with musicals and I loved the whole idea of being a “triple threat” artist. I loved the legends like Lena Horne and Diahann Carroll and other women that came from the stage and also had recording careers. Doing Aida was an amazing experience, and I thought I would love to do that again. But there weren’t a lot starring roles after Aida. So I released a couple of albums and focused on my family. I got a call to do the workshop for The Josephine Baker Story. It’s a story that I loved and admired and was really intrigued by, so when I found out they were planning to do a Broadway production of it, I jumped in. We did a presentation and workshops of the show, and over that period of time I got entrenched with the Broadway community again. After that, I started to get calls about other productions, and then the Nederlanders approached me about Jekyll & HydeThe Josephine Baker Story never came to Broadway, but I know they’re still waiting for a theater, and there are quite a few musicals in the queue. If they get a theatre, I’d absolutely do it.

IB:
As Aida and as Lucy, you have taken on characters that have been played successfully by other women, and you have been successful at making these roles your own. What’s your process for doing that?

DC:
Although there were other women who had played these roles, I try to just bring my own heart and soul to it. A big part of my process is staying away from what was done before. It’s even what I do with my music. When I did the Destination Moon album—the tribute album to Dinah Washington—I stopped listening to Dinah after a while because I didn’t want to copy her. I don’t have a voice like Dinah’s, we use different inflections, it’s a whole different thing. So I try to make sure that when I learn the material, I learn it and do it my own way and find my own truth.  I try to find something about me that connects me to the character that I’m playing.

IB:     
How does doing a Broadway show compare to doing concert tours?

DC:
This has been a huge a transition from making records and touring to coming to Broadway where you have no safety net. You have to come out and deliver every night of the week. I know the amount of pressure that it takes to perform these songs.  I know what people are expecting from me vocally, so I have to make sure that I have the right amount of discipline to do it and to be consistent. With the concert tours, I can manipulate more. I have much more control over the show. They are my songs, it’s my band, and it’s my set up. With Jekyll & Hyde, I’m a part of the bigger story, and I have a piece of a big puzzle. There’s a conductor, an orchestra, and other cast members. I don’t have any control over those things. In Jekyll & Hyde, I’m here to tell the story of Lucy Harris, in her songs and in the scenes. Every performance it’s: what is my objective, what am I trying to say, who is she and how can I leave people with something inspiring at the end of the night?  With my concerts, I take the same approach, which is doing the best that I can with the gift that God gave me. I go out there to sing, inspire people, make them feel good, make them cry, let them get back in touch with their emotions, and deliver a great show.

IB:
Besides wowing theater audiences across the country, you are a GRAMMY®-nominated, multi-platinum selling R&B star with six albums under your belt.  What’s next for you in the music world and other areas of your life?

DC:
Getting back into the studio to record another album! I’ve been getting inundated with tweets and Facebook messages about making another record. I’m in the process of working on that.  So there’ll be some new music. But I also want to spend time with my family. I have a son and two daughters ages nine, six, and four. I have great support system and I couldn’t do this without my family—my mother, my mother-in-law, my husband, and my sisters. We all chip in where we need to; we’re a great team. The kids will be done with their studies at the end of May and they will spend the summer in New York. Then I’ll probably take a nice vacation. I’m due. I’ll be on an island somewhere–chillin’.

See Jekyll & Hyde at the Marquis Theatre, located in Times Square at 1535 Broadway, New York, New York. For more information, please visit: www.jekyllhydemusical.com. Keep up with Deborah Cox at www.deborahcox.com and @deborah_cox.

Christy DeBoe Hicks is a veteran writer and communications specialist. A life-long theater buff, she lives and works in New York City. Contact her at [email protected].

christy deboe hicks

Christy DeBoe Hicks