Deborah Cox has been around for a while and has performed alongside fellow music icons (hello, Celine Dion and Whitney Houston!) for decades. The Grammy-nominated performer is likely best known for her impersonation skills, though: She not only played Rachel Maron in the musical version of The Bodyguard during its U.S. tour from 2016-2018 but also lent her vocals to Whitney, the 2015 Lifetime biopic.
Cox said it best in the ’90s: Nobody’s supposed to be here.
That was the consensus the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts has had since its shutdown in March due to the pandemic. Fitting, then, that Cox is the one to reopen the Arsht, so to speak, on Saturday, December 19, for her first-ever holiday performance, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
It will be the first time the Arsht will be opening its doors since that fated closure, and Cox — as well as attendees — will be taking to the Ziff Ballet Opera House stage for what’s meant to be a socially distanced, cabaret-style intimate performance.
“For the Deborah Cox concert, guests will be seated directly on the stage at tables under the soaring 120-foot ceiling of the Ziff Ballet Opera House,” says Johann Zietsman, president and CEO of the Arsht Center. “We have limited capacity to a maximum of 250 guests, which is about 14 percent capacity in a space that is 18,000 square feet and one of the largest stages in the country.”
These added precautions — in addition to digital tickets, hand sanitizing stations, and temperature checks — will ensure safety for all who attend.
“All guests will remain at assigned tables with their group at all times, and tables will be at least six feet apart,” Zietsman continues. “It’s quite the unique experience.”
But the pandemic-friendly ambiance isn’t the only thing unique about this performance: It really is a homecoming for Cox in more ways than one, who has not only performed at the Arsht before during the sold-out The Bodyguard musical run but performed under the direction of the acclaimed Richard Jay-Alexander before, too.
The Miami resident is looking forward to performing what she dubs her “first show in a very, very long time.”
“Generally, this time of year, I’m usually on the road,” she notes. “I’m always gigging or working doing a musical or something. This has been the longest I’ve ever been home — this quarantine. Even when I was pregnant, I was working. And I never took this much time off. It’s really been a reflective and retrospective time. I wanted to bring somewhat of a more intimate show to the Arsht.”
After discussing the performance with Jay-Alexander, they came to a consensus for the show: lift the spirits of those that attend, despite these current times.
“[The arts are] always in the forefront of our minds, remembering all the live performers that are affected by this,” Cox says. “Generally, we are the ones that like to go and perform and be that escape for people who may not have anywhere else to turn to when it comes to entertainment. Keeping that in the forefront, Richard and I talked about what we want to bring and what we want people to feel like when they leave.”
Cox plans to touch on some of her personal memories of the holidays and what they mean to her. You can expect personal accounts and stories, as well as plenty of music.
“This will be a very different tone in performance because of the time we’re in,” she mentions. “A real, beautiful, intimate night of great music.”
This show was initially supposed to complement a holiday album, but the holiday album was pushed for a late 2021 release because of the pandemic. So guests will be treated to not just Cox’s hits but some never-before-heard-live songs and songs from her upcoming holiday album as well.
“I wanted to bring some hope, some positivity, and some love,” Cox says. “I wanted to make sure that we reignite the spirit of the arts. I think the only way you can do that is if you bring something special to the audience. It marks a very special moment for me being my first holiday performance. We’re not going to let Covid stop the spirit of live music and live performance.”
Deborah Cox: I’ll Be Home for Christmas. 8 p.m. Saturday, December 19, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org. Tickets cost $70 to $200 via arshtcenter.org.