According to Deborah Cox,
itâ€™s no fault of hers that her big return to
Broadway ended abruptly last spring when the plug was pulled on the
musical revival of Jekyll & Hyde six weeks before its limited
run was to end. This, after the chart-topping R&B songstress
and leading man Constantine Maroulis (American Idol) won
raves when the show toured the country six months before. And
though the New York press corps were not as kind to the fabled
Frank Wildhornâ€“helmed spectacle, all bets were
literally off when it was snubbed for Tony Award nominations.
â€œI really wanted
to make my mark,â€ reflects Cox, who played the harlot with a heart Lucy. â€œI donâ€™t have any control of what goes on, thereâ€™s a lot of politics. The whole Broadway game has changed.â€
Cox is no stranger to the Great White Way: Almost 10 years ago the â€œNobodyâ€™s Supposed to Be Hereâ€ powerhouse garnered acclaim when she debuted in Tim Rice & Elton Johnâ€™s hit musical Aida. Not deterred by the Jekyll misfortunes, the 40-year-old married mother of three wonâ€™t let another decade pass before she makes it back on the boards. Tony Awardâ€“nominated producer Joey McKneely (The Life, Smokey Joeâ€™s Cafe) has tapped her for the leading role in Josephine, a biographical musical based on the life and times of legendary entertainer Josephine Baker. Itâ€™s a story the Toronto native has followed for more than 20 years.
â€œIâ€™ve been studying this woman for a long timeâ€” even in high school when I first went on tour with this French artist before I came to the U.S. and got my own deal,â€shes hared. â€œI became an admirer of her and her legacy. When this project came along, I said â€˜Wow, itâ€™s just meant to be.â€™â€
The forthcoming musical wonâ€™t gloss over the intricate details of Bakerâ€™s life, Cox warns. â€œShe came from the St. Louis slums and rose to be a huge star; she [was one of ] the first black women to have a mansion, an elevator and her own hair endorsements. She was a pilot, spoke seven languages and adopted 12 children from all over the globe. She was the first openly bisexual woman who really just believed that all of us should be able to co-exist no matter our color or sexual orientation. [Herâ€™s] was just a really brilliant story.â€
Cox has been known to hold her own alongside two of the most iconic voices of the past few decades (as a background singer for Celine Dion; as a duet partner with Whitney Houston), so singing songs like â€œLa Vie En Roseâ€ will be a cakewalk. And after doing theatre so well, the acting wonâ€™t be a problem either. But the French? Uh, not so much. She admittedly has to brush up on that. â€œI speak a little bit,â€ she chuckled before breaking out into what sounded like some â€œLady Marmaladeâ€Creole.
â€œI think Iâ€™m in the best place Iâ€™ve ever been in my career because Iâ€™m doing what I love,â€ she adds. â€œI think itâ€™s important for an artist to get [to] that place, and not many do.â€