There’s no better tribute to Whitney Houston than what pop and Broadway star Deborah Cox is doing right now: she’s starring in the national tour of the musical “The Bodyguard” singing Whitney’s hits as a nod to the late diva’s memory.
“It’s a real treat,” Deborah told my by phone recently. “We were label mates at Arista Records. We’d see each other at all the events.
Cox, like Whitney, was a Clive Davis protege. A decade younger than Whitney, Cox had a lot of hits for Davis, but none bigger than “No One’s Supposed to Be Here” in 1999. It was a top 10 smash, and launched her for good. “I came up listening to Whitney,” she adds.
But Cox also came from theater, unlike Whitney, and couldn’t help but get back in that game. In 2004, she made her Broadway debut when she joined Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida.” Since then she’s been able to mix pop and Broadway effortlessly. “When Clive saw me in Aida, he said, You’ve got to continue this, too,” Cox recalls.
Davis has been very supportive of Cox playing Rachel Marron in the new musical. “He told me about the part seven years ago, and pushed me for it.”
The idea is to bring “The Bodyguard” to Broadway after the tour, sometime next year. The show just finished a very successful run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey– where many Broadway shows come from. The musical adds Whitney hits to the movie’s soundtrack (still the number 1 movie soundtrack of all time). But the song everyone waits for is “I Will Always Love You.” It’s the 13th number of the night for Cox, which isn’t easy considering she’s got to belt it out and make it perfect.
“I know the pressure,” she told me. She goes on vocal rest, doesn’t speak, just sips water. She’s also battling the temperature in the theatre. Remember– Whitney used to turn off the air conditioning. “I keep a humidifier in the dressing room,” she says.
To solidify her tribute to Whitney, Deborah will record her eight songs from the show this month, probably for release on iTunes. It’s not a cast album, but she’s been getting requests from her fans. And everyone knows it’s done with love.
Her favorite song from the show– besides “I Will Always Love You”? “All the Man That I Need,” she says. “It’s overlooked, and it’s such a great arrangement.”