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Bucking up on Broadway

Braxton adds 'chocolate syrup' to 'Beast''s Belle role

Web posted on: Wednesday, September 16, 1998 4:10:32 PM

From Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist

NEW YORK (CNN) -- If she chose, five-time Grammy winner Toni Braxton could dwell on the troubles in her life. She's currently embroiled in a contract dispute with her recording label, LaFace, and she recently filed for bankruptcy, listing debts in excess of $2 million.

But instead of dwelling on the bad, Braxton is taking on a new challenge: Broadway.

The 31-year-old singer, whose hits include "Breathe Again" and "You're Making Me High," is stirring things up on the Great White Way as Belle in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."

"Let's just say Belle is like a big ol' glass of milk and I'm adding Nestle chocolate syrup to it," Braxton says.

Toni Braxton as Belle from "Beauty and the Beast"

Audio clip: 210k MPEG-3
Audio clip: 290k WAV
Video clip: 1.5Mb QuickTime

'I'm not an actor'

Singing on Broadway is different than singing in a recording studio, Braxton admits.

"There are things I have to do to be better because I'm not an actor," she says. "There are things I have to do because I haven't trained to be a Broadway singer. My voice is very thick and rich, like a milkshake, and that tends to be sexy. But for Belle, who's like 16 or 19, you don't want her to come across that sexy, so I have to make my tone a little brighter."

But both Braxton's composer and co-star say the singer shouldn't change too much.

"She's got that wonderful, husky, beautiful vocal quality that's unlike any Belle we've had before," says composer Alan Menken.

"She should not take Toni Braxton too much out of the performance of Belle, because I think that's going to be the winning combination," says co-star Meshach Taylor.

And if she should feel like she needs any more advice, another recording star who's played the role is ready to help.

"I did send her a note," says former Belle Deborah Gibson, "saying if she had any questions, or anything -- which she didn't. Here I am, thinking, 'I've been doing this a year.'"

Braxton rehearses

'It made me grow up'

Braxton says the show's creators have customized the role for her. Along with a new song, they've given her wardrobe a more Braxton-esque style.

"There's a little shoulder, a little bit of my back out," Braxton says. "They've really gone out of their way to make it more comfortable for me."

The experience is helping Braxton overcome her legal and financial troubles, which forced her to gain a new perspective on life.

"It made me grow up," she says. "You can't blame your parents, you can't blame your friends ... you have to look at yourself and make things happen for yourself."

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