Deborah Cox talks “The Bodyguard,” Whitney Houston and returning for St. Pete Pride

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Grammy Award-nominated and multi-platinum R&B/pop recording artist Deborah Cox says she’s excited to be back in Tampa Bay for “The Bodyguard,” having performed in the area on other tours and for St. Pete Pride celebrations.

The show’s first U.S. national tour, based on the 1992 hit film of the same name starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, is a high-energy musical playing at the Straz Center until March 25. It follows the tale of Cox’s superstar Rachel Marron, whose bodyguard Frank Farmer (played by television’s Judson Mills) is hired to protect her from an intense stalker.

As the audience falls in love with Cox’s vocals, so too do the two characters fall in love—and Watermark spoke with Cox ahead of the show’s opening to discuss her intense role, Whitney Houston’s legacy and returning for St. Pete Pride.

WATERMARK: We last spoke with you in 2016 – you’ve certainly been busy. What drew you to this role?

DEBORAH COX: What drew me? I read the script, I had heard about it, that they were going to be adapting it… and I heard about it when it was in a workshop phase. I wasn’t sure how it was going to translate and then years later when I read the script and was  approached to bring it to the U.S., it really connected and I thought that the storytelling, the way that it was told and the way that they added songs was really just brilliant.

It helped to tell more of a story and helped again to translate it onto the stage as a musical. It turned what the film was into this really dramatic, suspenseful romantic thriller.

What are your favorite differences between the two versions?

I love that there are more songs and songs are sung in their entirety. They help to understand Rachel’s character a bit more; she’s not this one dimensional superstar. You really get a sense from her singing the songs why she’s guarded, why she’s this single mother that’s very protective of her son and of her camp.

You really feel empathy towards her because she’s in this really isolated world. The world that she doesn’t have much of a life outside of her professional one, so you see how much she’s guarded and protective of that. And then you see that this is an opportunity to really fall in love and have that fairytale ending, but she chooses to be committed to her work and what she does. And Frank, he chooses to stick to what he’s been doing for a long time because it gets complicated and they can’t be together.

So I think those moments really separate the film from the stage musical, even though the basic storyline is the same. And then there’s the love triangle with the two sisters.

What’s it like stepping into a role made famous by Whitney Houston?

Well, they’re huge shoes to fill and I know that the expectations are great, especially when it comes to the performance of the songs; which I get because I’m a huge fan as well. And I want to show as much respect and understanding and really honor the legacy of the music and the film because it was one of those beloved iconic films. I know when people hear “I Will Always Love You,” they’re waiting for that moment and they’re waiting to see what that moment’s gonna be like on stage.

My approach really is to stay really present and just stay connected to giving the people a real inside look at Rachel’s character, her behavior and why she does what she does.

The vocals are nothing short of demanding. What steps do you take to ensure you’re getting the rest you need?

Yeah. I try to practice voice rest and we’ve found a rhythm and a routine amongst the six-show week that allows me to recover from the performance the night before. Drinking tons of water helps, and just voice preservation; I’ve got a handle on how much I can talk throughout the day.

How did your “I Will Always Love You” EP come about?

Fan request. A lot of people had been requesting a cast album and I had always had the intention of maybe recording one or two songs to make it a single. But [people] really wanted to leave with something with my voice on it singing the material, and so we just put it together and did a compilation of the eight most-requested songs. People are able to purchase it online or leave the theater with a copy.

You’ve also had an amazing presence at our St. Pete Pride and at Prides across the country. Any plans on returning for future Pride celebrations?

Sure, sure, I mean, it’s as long as my schedule permits. I’m always open to do a pride. They’re the most fun shows and the production is always on point. We always have a really good time, I think there’s a few scheduled after the tour. So yeah, you’ll definitely see me in the future.

Your hit “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” was recently a lipsync on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” What are your thoughts on the show?

I heard, I heard. I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been asked to do the show a number of times but the scheduling’s always been a thing. I’m always on tour or I had a date that was already scheduled, so we’ve never gotten a chance to connect.

But RuPaul’s a real friend and a real supporter of the show… he and Michelle Visage came opening night in L.A. There’s a lot of love there on both sides. Yeah, I would love that.

What do you want fans to know about what’s next for you?

I think immediately I’m gonna take a nice vacation to just sort of spend time with the family.

There’ll be more music. I think because the way the business has changed, a lot of people feel I won’t be doing any more music, but that’s not true. I plan on doing more. It’ll just be – most likely be something later on this year and yeah, the music will never stop.

I don’t want to talk about any other projects because I don’t want to give them away early.

“The Bodyguard” is now playing at the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall through March 25. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Deborah Cox is not scheduled to perform at the Sunday evening performance.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at www.strazcenter.org. For more information about the Straz Center and its upcoming events, please visit www.strazcenter.org.

Photo courtesy of The Straz Center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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