The Jekyll & Hyde remix? Dance diva Deborah Cox revels in revival of Houston-born musical

The Jekyll & Hyde remix? Dance diva Deborah Cox revels in revival of Houston-born musical

Theatre Under the Stars, Jekyll & Hyde, TUTS, Deborah Cox, cast, October 2012
Deborah Cox and cast members of Jekyll & Hyde Photo by Smallz & Raskind
Theatre Under the Stars, TUTS, Jekyll & Hyde, Deborah Cox, Constantine Maroulis, October 2012
Deborah Cox and Constantine Maroulis of Theatre Under the Stars' production of Jekyll & Hyde Photo by © Chris Bennion
Theatre Under the Stars, Jekyll & Hyde, TUTS, Deborah Cox, cast, October 2012
Theatre Under the Stars, TUTS, Jekyll & Hyde, Deborah Cox, Constantine Maroulis, October 2012

They’re baaack. The singing versions of the noble, but reckless, Dr. Jekyll and his monstrous alter ego Mr. Hyde are coming home to the city that gave them musical birth.

Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical first debuted at the Alley Theatre in 1990 before lumbering onto the world’s stages with multiple tours and a Broadway run. Now a new revival directed by Jeff Calhoun and starring former American Idol finalist and Tony nominee Constantine Maroulis as Jekyll and Hyde and the platinum-selling and Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Deborah Cox as Lucy has set out on a 25-city tour before transferring to Broadway.

Before the production traveled to Houston to open the Theatre Under the Stars 2012-2013 season tonight, CultureMap talked with Cox about what we can expect from this latest version of our old scary friend.

CultureMap: Houston has a prominent place in Jekyll & Hyde’s history, so for those theater lovers who have seen earlier productions of the show, what will they see that’s new to this interpretation and what will they find familiar?

Deborah Cox: I’ve never seen the original production, so I have no reference. All I can do is bring my own heart and soul to the piece. There are some big shoes to fill with Linda Eder and her version of those iconic songs, but in this new production with Constantine and myself there’s a lot of heart in the show.

 There are some big shoes to fill with Linda Eder and her version of those iconic songs, but in this new production with Constantine and myself there’s a lot of heart in the show. 

We’ve taken the approach of not messing with the foundation of the story. That’s intact. But, I think when people come to see the show they’re not going to know what to expect because it’s not a predictable production. It’s edgy. It’s a very passionate piece.”

CM: How do you see your character Lucy?

DC: I’ve dealt with individuals who have had mental illness, and my approach to Lucy is sort of an approach that I’ve taken in my own life which is you have to walk a fine line.

The way I see it is she’s in a bad situation but won’t let anyone degrade her more than her situation is already. So she finds humor, and she finds the little light inside of the dark world she is in. What’s she found in Henry Jekyll is something that’s very real and pure and something she hasn’t experienced before.

For me the challenge was not just showing emotion in the songs but showing the emotion in the scenes, really finding a grounded way of portraying this women who basically wears her sexuality on her sleeve. That was a bit of an adjustment for me because I believe in being more subtle when dealing my sexual side.

CM: Is there a song that epitomizes Lucy’s character for you?

DC: "A New Life" because this is the one time in her life where she’s found a bit of hope. The gesture that Jekyll is trying to protect her, that is her everything; that’s her world. The arc of the character peaks in that moment.

I have a huge history with the LGBT community and the dance community that whenever I record anything they want to hear a dance version. We’re still in the process of figuring out which songs would be the best ones to do. 

CM: In 2004 you jumped into the title role in Aida after it had been on Broadway for several years, but with Jekyll & Hyde you are there from the beginning rehearsals to the U.S tour and finally Broadway. Is this a helpful process in putting your claim on the character?

DC: Absolutely. With acting there’s always discovery. There’s always moments when you’re really in the scene and when it’s real to you, just like in life there’s always moments that happen organically. That’s what’s been happening on stage.

There have been so many magical moments that have come so early in this process. This tour is going to help us anchor the characters so that we have all of those moments that we can play. That’s what I love about musical theater and live performances. 

CM: Some of the Jekyll & Hyde songs have spawned countless cover versions. As a singer/songwriter yourself, what do you think it is about these songs that has made them last?

DC: When you have a solid song that’s beautiful written it stands the test of time, just like a great story. When the perfect melody and the perfect lyric come together, it just resonates and because of the way it resonates, people want to hear it over and over, people want to cover it, and essentially you have an iconic song. I think these songs in the show are a testament to that.  

But honestly, when I got the script I stayed away from watching any other versions because I didn’t want to change the way my approach was going to be and what I wanted to do with the character. The only thing I did listen to was the original soundtrack and Linda’s versions of the songs. Then, I put that away and got into the studio with Frank [Wildhorn] and Jason [Howland] and we got to the piano and let it come from the heart.

CM: There's a rumor you might be taking some of these songs and creating dance versions.

DC: Right now there’s a big buzz for a couple of songs in the show, but we’re trying to figure which ones we’ll lead with. I don’t just remix anything. It’s got to be the right vibe and the right flow. I have a huge history with the LGBT community and the dance community that whenever I record anything they want to hear a dance version. I take it very seriously, in the sense that it’s really thought out. We’re still in the process of figuring out which songs would be the best ones to do.

CM: But you think some of these songs will work as dance versions?

DC: Oh yeah. A lot of songs that became bigger dance records, the originals are completely different. I think that’s why the dance records have stood alone on their own. You get with these DJ and these producers and they completely flip it and it gives a song a whole new life. Pardon the pun, but it does. You hear a new version and it’s like: Wow, I didn’t know it could be interpreted that way.

CM: So, in a way, remixes can be like a new production of a musical: I didn’t know it could be interpreted that way?

DC: [Laughing] Exactly, yes.

Jekyll & Hyde begins its Houston run tonight at the Hobby Center and runs through Oct. 21.