"Bodyguard" star makes iconic role her own

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SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — The musical "The Bodyguard," which is at Proctors Tuesday through Feb. 4, is based on the popular 1992 film of the same name.

The film starred Whitney Houston as a lonely superstar pop singer and Kevin Costner as the stoic bodyguard who is hired to protect her from a potentially dangerous stalker.

But make no mistake about it, though Costner provided an important romantic element, the film was a vehicle for Whitney Houston. Indeed, the songs in the show were created specifically for her and her work in the film was memorable. So memorable that her tragic death cemented the image that the film was actually the story of the singer's life.

Playing the role on the national tour is Deborah Cox, an R&B superstar in her own right. She is one of Canada's biggest recording stars, who is also hugely popular in the United States. Back in 1998, her song "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here" was the number one selling record in both countries for 14 weeks. Her star has not dimmed since that auspicious debut.

Just as important, in terms of filling the expectations of an audience, Cox is familiar with the style that made Houston such a star. Indeed, she did the vocals for "Whitney," a Whitney Houston biopic that was released in 2015.

However, don't go to "The Bodyguard" expecting a tribute show. In a recent telephone interview, Cox said about the role, "the biggest challenge is to be yourself. There will be huge expectations from the audience to see the familiar, and it is my responsibility to honor those expectations. But, I must also honor my own interpretation of the character. To do both you have to be super-disciplined."

Cox said she learned the lesson of being true to yourself with her portrayal of Lucy in "Jekyll and Hyde." In 2013, the show had a brief Broadway run after completing a 25-week tour. "On opening night in New York, Linda Eder (who created the role) came backstage to tell me how much she loved my performance. It meant so much to hear this beautiful, tough lady who always performs at the highest possible level, validate my work. I realized the best work always comes from within."

Though Cox insists on being true to herself, she readily admits she has influences. Probably the most important was Dinah Washington. "I grew up loving jazz. Dinah was always on my turntable. I admired almost everything about her, but especially her versatility."

Her admiration for Dinah Washington resulted in Cox producing a tribute album in 2007, titled "Destination Moon." "I got fed up with waiting for someone to produce the album," Cox said. "We hired a live orchestra and just did it. It was the most satisfying experience I've ever had."

Cox says her versatility has been a means of survival. "I started in show business in the era of the triple-threats. You had to be able to perform in little jazz clubs, bigger theaters and other venues. When the opportunity came it was important to try musicals and films. And, if there were no opportunities, you produced something for yourself."

She says this trait distinguishes her from Rachel in "The Bodyguard." "She's a diva who is a very guarded woman," Cox said. "She surrounds herself with a small group who protect her. This isolates her. She can't trust anybody. When Frank (the bodyguard) enters her life he changes the dynamics of her relationships. Finally there is a person she can trust."

Spoiler alert!!!! Their romance does not end well, which disappointed many who saw the film. Include Cox in that number. "I wish the story would end differently," she says. But being a realist she adds, "I wouldn't call it a bad choice. I think it's more like the right choice at the wrong time."


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