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Debbie Gibson Journeys On!

The acclaimed star discusses her Journey Through the '80s tour, her songwriting career, and her possible return to Broadway.

Debbie Gibson
(© Troy Smith)
Debbie Gibson began her enormously successful pop career at the age of 16 when her self-penned album, Out of the Blue, sold over eight million copies world-wide. Since then, she has honed her talent on the musical theater stage in such shows as Les Miserables, Gypsy, Cabaret, and Beauty and the Beast, while continuing to record. On July 29, she brings her Journey Through the '80s concert tour with fellow pop star Tiffany to Long Island's Westbury Music Fair (with more concerts set for across the country). TheaterMania recently spoke with Gibson about the tour, her career, and her hopes for returning to Broadway.

THEATERMANIA: On the new tour, will you continue to honor your old hits?
DEBBIE GIBSON: The great thing about having written my hits is that I will never disown my past, because all those hits came from me. I think a lot of artists who do disown their pasts do so because it was kind of like an image was put on them and their hits were handed to them. They didn't have much creative input. But I wrote about what I knew then, which were puppy love and normal things that teenaged girls were going through. I get tweets from 17-year-old girls saying, "Hey, how does it feel to have teenagers listening to your music and rediscovering your music?" I'm honored that that's the case.

TM: How have your inspirations changed as you've gotten older?
DG: The songs that I'm writing now are very much a reflection of my life now, and I also think a lot about other people's lives. For example, I'm very aware that a lot of people in this country are going through very hard times. I have a line that I always say to them: "You can't bankrupt talent or your spirit. There are things that can't be taken from you." So, for example, that's the theme in a song that I'm working on.

TM: Can you talk about what it was like transitioning from pop star to theater star?
DG: Many people don't know that I actually started in theater! I got my Equity card when I was 11 doing Sheldon Harnick and Michel Legrand's The Christmas Carol at The Hartman Theater in Stamford. Theater has always been very precious to me.

TM: What was it like being on Broadway for the first-time?
Doing Les Miserables as my first Broadway show was incredible. Everybody was like "What? You're putting a pop star in the role of Eponine? Eponine's a tomboy." They had this vision of me as a pop princess in a bubble. Richard-Jay Alexander (who was the show's assistant director) really gets credit for taking that first chance on me, and that led me to having done 20 years of theater.

TM: Is there a chance we'll see you back on Broadway soon?
DG: I wrote a musical with Jimmy Van Patten called The Flunky, which is kind of Entourage meets Rocky Horror. It's very much out of the box in the way that Rent was when it first came out. I think my next Broadway goal is to see my original music on Broadway and musically supervise a show. I don't necessarily need to be in it. I love the idea of bringing something new to the theater world.

TM: Are there any theatrical roles that you've always wanted to play?
DG: I don't know if I ever will get to, but I want to do the title role in Evita. I got to do some of that music at a Tim Rice tribute a few years ago. And I'd love to play Maria von Trapp, though I'm probably a bit too old to play her now. I did Velma in Chicago twice, and I would love to do Roxie now, because to me that's the richer acting role.

TM: If you could go back in time to give your 16-year-old self advice, what would you tell her?
DG: To slow down and take the moments in a little more. I played Madison Square Garden and I barely remember it because I was so into the word "perfectionist." I would tell my 16-year-old self that that's a bad word. It's more about the process and enjoying things, and there is no such thing as perfection. In fact, perfection is sometimes in the imperfection. If I go to a concert, I would rather someone crack on a high note going for it and walking that high wire than singing in this safe little place and being technically perfect. I loved playing Eponine for that reason. That was the one character in the show that got to be really raw, and the little bit of edginess that I naturally have in my voice was an asset in that role.