Tony nominee Brenda Braxton has brought her signature brand of sex appeal to Broadway blockbusters like Chicago, Smokey Joe’s Café, Cats, Legs Diamond and Dreamgirls. Now Braxton is showing off-Broadway audiences that, like fine wine, she just gets better with age. As one of four stars of playful musical comedy Cougar the Musical, Braxton wins laughs with her big voice and catlike moves. Broadway.com caught up with the star for a chat about what makes Cougar relatable, her own interest in younger men and more.
How is Cougar the Musical going so far?
It’s wonderful! It’s a pleasant surprise. When I originally said yes to this, I thought it was a limited run, but it seems like we’re a hit. Go figure!
What attracted you to this show?
This is a little ego, but [composer] Donna [Moore] asked me to do the reading. I’ve been around for a long time, and to still have to go through the audition process, you kind of go, “Okay, does it ever happen that someone just asks you to do something?” So, she asked me, and when I saw the script and heard the music, I liked it. I also like the subject matter because I think we’re really taking it to a different level. When you think of "cougar," you think, “older women,” but we have more of a story of three women. And when [director] Lynne Taylor-Corbett came on board, I was like, “Yes! Now we got something.”
Why do you think this show is relatable to all women and not just those of a certain age?
Women go through all types of changes: when you get divorced, when you have to sell your home, when you make your own money and go into your own business. These three women run the gamut of a whole lot of women’s issues. We’re human beings up here, and even the guys who come understand older women a little more.
Does it make you feel sexy to perform the show? Is it empowering?
It’s very empowering because of how we’re telling the story. We’re not women saying that we love younger men just for the sex. It’s about life; it’s about who you connect with, who you’re passionate with and who you might want to spend the rest of your life with. Of course, I might kick off before he does because I’m older, but that’s life. Life is too short to worry about age. I’m dealing with that too. I’m really dealing with at my age: Can I have a relationship with a younger man, and how much younger?
Has your husband seen the show?
I’m not married anymore, but he was nine years younger than I was. And no, he has not seen the show [laughs]. But it’s all good.
You've done many stints as Velma in Chicago over the past decade. Why do you think it has lasted?
Great music, great choreography, great book, sexy people. It’s so risqué and just so dark and mysterious. And it’s a lot of fun.
Would you be open to returning to Chicago at some point?
I would definitely be open to it.
You’ve been in a lot of amazing musicals [Dreamgirls, Smokey Joe’s, Cats, Chicago]. Do you have a favorite experience?
Smokey Joe’s, of course. That was my number one favorite because I was nominated [for a Best Featured Actress Tony]. I was with it from the beginning, and to go through that and to be nominated—that is just totally awesome.
Do you have any plans on the horizon?
Well, I plan for Cougar to move to a different theater! And I plan for the salary to get a little boost [laughs], but that’s it.
Don’t miss Brenda Braxton in Cougar the Musical at St. Luke’s Theatre.