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Melody, Soul, & All the Rest

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Many layers: Deborah Cox and Constantine Maroulis star in Theater Under the Stars’s Jekyll and Hyde.

From dance queen to ‘Jekyll and Hyde,’ Deborah Cox knows her music
by David Goldberg
Photo by Smallz & Raskind

From October 10–21, Houston plays host to Jekyll & Hyde with American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis and perennial dance diva Deborah Cox taking the reins. Cox arrives in Houston after a busy summer performing at Pride Parade events and same-sex weddings around the country. OutSmart spoke with the Canadian singer/actress about Houston, her role, and her future.

David Goldberg: What’s going on with Jekyll and Hyde?
Deborah Cox: The tour starts in October, but we’re doing tech rehearsals, so we’re making sure the lighting is right, getting all the blocking, and working with the sets. We’re out here [in California] for a month tech-ing the show.

The show is shaping up to be really, really dramatic. It’s going to be intimate, and there’s a lot of surprises, scares, and a lot of moments that will make people uncomfortable, but it’s going to be coming from a place of truth.

What drew you to the role of Lucy?
Jekyll and Hyde is one of those iconic stories of good and evil, so I was familiar with the premise, but I had never seen a production of it. I’d never even heard the music. But I read the script, and I kept thinking, “Wow, this could be cool,” and I found out that Jeff Calhoun was going to be the director. He is one of those directors that really allows the actor to find their voice and directs the voice to its prime, which is very liberating for me as an actor. When I heard the music, that was what really sold me. I knew that I have some big shoes to fill, because there is a cult following for the show. But I felt very confident that I could bring something very new and different as well. It’s been a really amazing journey.

Everything is being made into a musical these days.
I think some things translate well and some things don’t. If you find a good story that really resonates with people, then whether it was a film or not, you’re going to have a hit. You’ve gotta have great music that people remember, and that moves and inspires them, and I think Jekyll and Hyde has lived on because of that. It struck a chord because everyone goes through those struggles at some point, and the music has that same voice and tone. It has all the ingredients to be great and stay great.

You’ve been doing a lot of social and political events for LGBT rights. Do you think all performers should get involved politically?
It’s important to do what is important to you and what you are passionate about. As an artist or star, this is your platform, and you have the amazing opportunity to reach a lot of people. If you have that platform and you don’t use it to share something you are passionate about, then I think that’s a personal thing. Some people choose not to. I choose to do things that I am passionate about: issues with children, the gays, lifestyle, and wellness—a lot of things that impact my life on a daily basis. If I don’t bring attention to it, then I think it’s just a waste.

Are you involved with the impending presidential election?
Absolutely. We really need to change a lot of things in this country. I’m a huge supporter of President Obama and Michelle, and I agree more with the issues that he has put forth than I do with Mitt Romney and some of the things he’s come out and said. I am getting more in the political realm of things right now. I’m passionate about this country being better.

You have two albums in the works.
I’ve been working on an R&B project, and I’m also working on a dance project. We split it up and have a party album and one album you can chill to.

Are you seeing changes in dance music today?
It’s gotten so technical and techno-sounding that we’re kind of losing the soul. When I thought of dance music, I always thought of big voices and big choruses, and now I think it’s changing and becoming more about instruments and sounds and ear candy than it is about melody and the beat. It’s too generic now. Five or ten years ago, when you heard a record, you knew who it was. You could make a distinction by the way it sounded, so I would like more [melody and soul] to be put into a record.

Are your gay fans starting to look different, or have they been consistent over the years?
The fan base is more spread out. It’s gotten bigger. I’m starting to see a wider range of dance fans now. I’m seeing young high school kids now, rocking out to a Pride party, and I’m seeing less of the older ones. But it depends on the party. I found that the Pride events this year were more family oriented. You see a lot more families in general; it’s more of a festival than a Pride party. It’s just a generational shift for the older gay audience. I’m skewing younger now. The fans that would listen to me in the nineties don’t want to be in that frenzy and that crowd.

Have you been to Houston before?
Yes, I’ve been to Houston. I’ve always been in and out, but I’m gonna be there for two weeks at the Hobby Center doing Jekyll and Hyde. I’m looking forward to eating at some great restaurants, because I’ve had some good food in Houston. I’m a foodie.

What: Jekyll and Hyde
When: October 10–21
Where: The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby St.
Tickets: start at $24
Info: 713/558-TUTS (8887) • tuts.com

[email protected] Post-Show Cast Party:
Thursday, October 11
A post-show, cabaret-style event at Artista Restaurant for TUTS’s LGBT friends.  Guests get a special treat as Deborah Cox stops by the fete to greet [email protected] patrons. Visit tuts.com/out for more info.

TUTS Offers Master Class:
Monday, October 8
Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center

Multi-Grammy and Tony Award-nominated composer and producer Frank Wildhorn dialogues with TUTS’s Artistic Director Bruce Lumpkin for a Master Class, 3–5 p.m., about the history of Jekyll & Hyde, the show’s musical themes, originality, composition, structure, and connection to other Wildhorn musicals. There is a 30-minute Q&A at the end of the master class. Those attending the class can return for the Vocal Intensive, 7–9 p.m., featuring six pre-selected candidates and Wildhorn. The candidates have fifteen minutes to sing in front of Wildhorn, followed by a short critique. Tickets start at $150. Visit tuts.com/events or call 713/558-TUTS (8887) to purchase tickets. More info: tuts.com.

David Goldberg is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.

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David Goldberg

David Goldberg is a queer journalist and the host of The Luminaries podcast. His work is collected at davidgoldberg.online.

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