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NUNN ON ONE: THEATER Deborah Cox and her 'Body' of work
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2017-01-25

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Canadian songstress Deborah Cox is touring the world with the ghost of Whitney Houston by her side.

The Bodyguard tells the story of Frank Farmer, who is hired to protect singer Rachel Marron from a stalker. Danger mixes with a love story between the two while classic movie soundtrack tunes are performed.

The film version made more than $400 million worldwide and the musical version is now a hit.

No stranger to Broadway, Cox has performed in a variety of musicals such as Aida and Jekyll & Hyde. She portrayed Josephine Baker in Josephine last year at Asolo Repertory Theatre.

Also, Cox belted out 12 number-one songs on Billboard's Hot Dance Play chart. Cox collaborated with the legendary Houston on the duet "Same Script, Different Cast."

Her work in the LGBT community has garnered her many awards, including being the Harvey Milk Foundation's Diversity Honoree in 2015, and being part of the Liberty Bell and Proclamation in Philadelphia LGBTQ Pride Day in 2016.

Windy City Times: Where in the world are you calling from?

Deborah Cox: I am in Appleton, Wisconsin. We go to Memphis from here, then to Chicago.

WCT: Last time you were here, we talked backstage at Market Days.

DC: Oh, yes.

WCT: You put on such a great show and always support the gay community.

DC: Thank you. I love Chicago.

WCT: We are excited to have you back. Is the musical version of The Bodyguard updated from the time of the original movie?

DC: Yes. It is based off of the movie. The writer Alexander Dinelaris expanded a bit on a few of the characters. The stage production is slightly different in the sense that there is more music. There are songs from the film but there is additional music from Whitney Houston's catalog.

It is a really thrilling, sexy, suspenseful show. When you see the live production it is really chilling to see it.

WCT: I heard the focus is more on Rachel than in the original movie.

DC: There is definitely a lot more songs and singing. The central character is Rachel Marron, so she is spotlighted.

WCT: Her sister, Nicki Marron, is featured, isn't she?

DC: You get more of the story with the Rachel's sister and the things she is going through. What I thought was clever was many of the songs help to tell the story and shape the characters. Jasmin Richardson who plays Nicki sings "Saving All My Love" and "All at Once." Lyrically, those songs help to tell her story.

WCT: Jay Manuel did the makeup for the show?

DC: Jay Manuel Beauty provided the makeup for the tour. He designed and revamped Rachel's look. That is really great because you want to bring something forward and fresh to the character.

WCT: What is the balance of making the character your own or channeling Whitney?

DC: For me, there is no balance. Everyone knows there is only one Whitney Houston. I am not trying to go in and do a caricature.

It is more complicated in my case because she was my friend and a mentor. We were label mates. We sang a duet together. I knew the person that played the role. It is something I have to work on every single performance, to bring my own voice to Rachel Marron to this version of the show.

While I am hugely honored to playing Rachel, I know the shoes I have to fill because everyone knows the movie so well. There are high expectations from people. That is pretty much what I go in with every night. I go in to tell the story, not just with songs, but through the acting, through my relationship with Judson Mills, who plays Frank Farmer. I think it is important for people to see the connection through the scenes.

WCT: Do you have a favorite Whitney song?

DC: One of my favorites even prior to the show was a song called "All the Man That I Need." It opens act two. When I read the script and saw it I knew it would be great because it tells where Rachel is at that moment. She's just a girl in love. I get a chance to show and project that emotion. I also do it in the studio portion of the show. When you see it you will understand what I am talking about. It is a moment where I can pour my heart into the song.

WCT: How do you protect your voice with the demands of this show?

DC: Complete voice rest. I have to be fiercely disciplined while on the road. It is a tough schedule—traveling all the time, doing the shows every night.

WCT: In Millennium Park in Chicago, you did a preview of The Bodyguard. You knocked it out of the park.

DC: Thank you.

WCT: People got out of their chairs and were dancing to the Whitney songs.

DC: I love singing. When I get the opportunity to sing the songs I love I think the audience can really feel that. They connect with that. It was sheer pure joy that happened in the rain that day.

WCT: Are you doing any performances in your hometown in Canada?

DC: No. Unfortunately, the producers up there had already planned on it being the UK production so I will not being doing it in Toronto. They will just have to come to Chicago!

WCT: Is the plan for it to be on Broadway?

DC: I hope so. I don't know what the producers plans are but, for right now, it is about bringing it to all of these audiences throughout the country.

WCT: What are your plans after the tour?

DC: While the tour is happening, I plan on releasing an eight-song EP of some of the songs from the show. Then after that, more music and more acting but I can't talk about it; it is too early.

WCT: How about some more club mixes?

DC: Oh, yes. I have some things brewing. I don't want to let them out of the bag just yet.

WCT: Any fun plans while in Chicago?

DC: I always throw stuff in my schedule, but sometimes it gets cancelled. I am hoping to do a lot more. We will be there for two weeks, so I am going let Chicago be my playground and really hang out.

WCT: If you get a chance there is Musical Monday at Sidetrack, where the cast can have fun and promote the show.

DC: Wow, sounds like a plan. See you in Chicago soon!

Sing along with The Bodyguard at the Oriental Theatre 24 W. Randolph St., Jan. 31-Feb. 12. For tickets and information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com .

Connect with Cox by visiting DeborahCox.com .


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