The South Florida community is invited to a sneak peek into the newest project starring Grammy Award-nominated and multi-platinum recording artist and actress Deborah Cox live at Seaspice, located on the banks of the Miami River.
Acclaimed for her starring roles in the hit musicals The Bodyguard, Aida and Jekyll & Hyde, this concert will chart new territory and give you a behind-the-scenes look into Deborah’s latest collaboration. You’ll hear “hits” that you know, new songs that you’ll love and intimate stories from Deborah’s exciting career. Created with renowned Broadway talents Director Richard Jay-Alexander of Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon and Musical Director Joseph Joubert of Motown, The Color Purple and Billy Elliot, this special performance will showcase the sheer beauty and artistry of Deborah Cox like never before. Proceeds from “Arsht Live at Seaspice” support the Arsht Center’s numerous Arts Education initiatives that annually serve more than 55,000 Miami-Dade children and their families.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Deborah Cox and Richard Jay-Alexander (separately) for this Hotspots exclusive Interview:
When did performing become an interest of yours?
It started when I was 11 doing different talent shows and other things, and then I went to a performing arts high school.
What was your first professional gig?
It was my first commercial, and it was for Marvelous Muffins. I was paid $50.
When did you know singing/performing would be your career?
Probably when I was in high school. I was the one that was always tired in first period as I had a gig the night before. It was somewhere around 17.
You have collaborated with many artists. Do you have a favorite and why?
My favorite is the duet I did with Whitney Houston. The reason for that is I felt like everything came full circle for me as an artist. Growing up I looked up to and admired her so much!
You have received many awards for your efforts in the fight for human rights. What made you decide to use your fame for this cause and has this been rewarding for you?
It’s been really rewarding as it came out of purely organic situations. I had lost a few friends from AIDS, and I had other gay and lesbian friends who were shamed and kicked out of their family’s homes. This made me want to speak up on human rights issues, and I have never stopped!
Your Broadway debut was in Aida, how did this come about and tell us about the experience?
I was literally in between albums and had just given birth to my son. The producers were looking for a new AIDA and I just went for it, and got cast. It rekindled my love for musical theater which I had done prior to my albums.
You were recently in the Broadway Tour of the Bodyguard, which, I must say you were AMAZING in, can you tell me about that experience?
Thanks! It was a very liberating experience. It was the most challenging role to date because I knew what the expectations were and I had to deliver 13 Whitney Houston hits!! What I didn’t know was the discipline this role would require. That meant no wine, tons of water, no coffee and being at my very best vocally so I couldn’t afford to get sick. My only days off were the travel day to the next city. I also felt that it came full circle for me. I was able to pay tribute to a long-time mentor, label mate and friend.
Describe yourself in three words?
Focused, nurturing, and fearless.
What should the South Florida audiences expect from this sneak peek of your new show?
Well, this will be the first time working and creating anything like this with Richard. I decided to work with him because I’ve been a fan of his work with the legends. I was introduced to him through a mutual friend and we clicked. I think everything has to do with chemistry and being able to trust a director that will bring out the best in you. I’m a little anxious about the journey.
I am not sure what kind of show they will get because I don’t know what it is yet. I am so excited that the Adrienne Arsht Center and Seaspice are allowing me to test out this experiment right here at home. I wanted to be able to do a show that really reflected on my influences, my likes and I wanted to share more of my own personal stories. I felt like it was time to get off the dance floor for a moment and bring the audience into my living room!
Part of the proceeds from this concert will benefit the Arsht Center’s award winning arts education programs. As an artist, why do you believe arts education is important for our local youth and students?
It’s Huge to have support for our arts programs. Where would we be without the performing arts? I think our youth need an outlet to express themselves. I also feel that we have to nurture the talent and keep programs growing where they can do workshops and have the opportunity to learn from professionals. The summer programs are amazing. I also think that it’s encouraging for them to know that there are world class artists right here at home and to see themselves as a part of that picture.
What does the future hold for you?
More music, live performances and more activism. I think more now than ever we as artists need to use our platform to bring awareness to some of the things we are most passionate about.
You started out as an actor and now you are a famous director, do you like one more than the other, and what are the differences, creatively?
I love directing, but I didn’t really see it coming in the early parts of my career. When you fall in love with theatre, all you see is the performances. You’re not aware of all of the other skills that go into the creation of the final product. Leadership is also part of directing and I guess when you add up all the years of being class president, producing carnivals for muscular dystrophy as a youth, and anything authoritative like that, it all seems to add up to this trajectory.
As an actor, you have worked with celebrities such as Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone (those two alone make me want to die and go to heaven), Tim Curry, Ron Moody, and Sir Ian McKellen. What did you learn from working with such superstars?
Wow! What a question! I’ve been a professional in the business for 43 years now, and I’m STILL learning “lessons.” Just listening to you drop those names my mind gets flooded with so many things, but, trust me, I have learned from each and every one of the people I have worked with.
As a director, you have worked with even more celebrities. Do you learn more directing or acting, and why?
Why are you asking these difficult questions? It’s crazy and I feel totally blessed to have worked with as many people as I have. But, I’m also fortunate that I’ve worked with so many people that I have admired while growing up, myself. I’ve recently begun to be referred to as “The Diva Whisperer” and it makes me laugh, but I sort of like it, too. I was dubbed that in a meeting with a great dame named Lisa Sharkey, who is the Senior Vice President Director of Creative Development at HarperCollins. We were in a meeting talking about the possibility of a book deal. Having been an actor, a stage manager, a singer, a dancer, a production assistant, a script reader… ALL of those things come into play every single time I step into a rehearsal with a cast or a star. Being able to jump in and out of hoops, myself, helps take away some of the fear, and puts me on the same playing field as whomever I’m working with.
You have directed shows in some of the most famous Concert Halls in the world. Do you have a favorite, and why?
Okay you’re now “officially” the smartest interview I’ve ever had. You haven’t asked me one repeat question from all the years I’ve been doing interviews. Every single venue is awesome in and of itself, but I must say, Carnegie Hall and The Hollywood Bowl are two of my absolute favorites. Every time I return to either of those, I still get chills.
You are on the Executive Board of one of my favorite organizations: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. When did you get on the Board, and tell our readers why?
Okay, you’re killing me, now! I’ve been on the board since near the very beginning and was there when Equity Fights AIDS and Broadway Cares came together as one. It was a simple decision, really. Our business was being obliterated by the loss of lives and talent. To this day, sitting on that board and being led by Tom Viola, our Executive Director, and a committee of leaders in the theater community is one of my proudest responsibilities.
You are also Camp Director for Kristin Chenoweth’s Broadway Bootcamp. What made you take this position and is Kristin as super sweet as I think she is?
Being the Camp Director for Kristin Chenoweth’s Broadway Bootcamp fell in my lap out of nowhere. When we were on Broadway doing “Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway,” I was in her dressing room one night, and she was despondent over the direction her camp was going in. She had dreams and goals for it, and felt they might be off-track. This happens to many not-for-profits in their early years, and, at that point, I volunteered to step in and help her. It has been a joy, and is one of my favorite things I look forward to every year. The kids are high school age and theatre obsessed, so they’re basically ME, when I was that age. Kristin is a marvel and insanely talented. But she cares about proper education, the arts, and helping young people realize that training and having a career can be within your grasp… no matter where you live or come from. This is also why Deborah Cox and I are doing The Seaspice Event which supports The Adrienne Arsht Center’s Arts Education and Community Outreach Programs.
How did your new project with Deborah Cox come about, and what should our readers expect from this sneak peek of your new collaboration?
This is a very happy story. I went to see The Bodyguard on tour when it played The Arsht. I knew about Deborah Cox and her music, but I had never laid eyes on her, on a stage. Everyone knows this NOW, but, that night, I threw my shoe in the air more than a couple of times. I remember thinking to myself, “SURELY, she’s doing this for me. She can’t possibly do this eight times a week!” Just weeks later, I received an email from a leading producer in New York, named Nick Scandalios (who also sits on the BC/EFA board) telling me that Deborah wants to put together a new show, and expand her wings, musically, beyond her legendary dance & music career. We arranged a meeting… it was pretty magical… and, here we are! We’re in the middle of the process, and we’re exploring all kinds of music, and also her unique background and story. The people who attend the event at Seaspice are going to witness where we’re at mid-process, and how and why we’re trying to analyze and conquer the type of material we want to share with an audience. I don’t believe this is done at a regional level, or a local level, but at a world-class level, and what we arrive at, ultimately, should be able to grace any stage across the globe. Deborah is nervous because she feels people expect a certain something, and they will get that, but, I have assured her that they will join her for the rest of the ride, as we move forward. It’s always scary, whether it’s Barbra, Bette, Bernadette, etc. But, we do it together, and we also have the guidance of a brilliant musical director, who is a star in his own right, and his name is Joseph Joubert.
One of the most fascinating things about Deborah, was learning that she is Canadian. More on that as well as being a mom, a wife, an activist, a dance diva, a friend of Whitney Houston’s, a Broadway star, a Fashionista, etc. when we see you at Seaspice.
Arsht Live at Seaspice (422 NW North River Drive, Miami, FL) featuring Deborah Cox takes place on Thursday, January 31 at 7pm with tickets starting at $75.