FLASH FRIDAY: Toni Braxton Back On Broadway
Multi-Grammy Award-winning recording artist and repeat Broadway performer Toni Braxton returns to the stage in the jazz and blues revue AFTER MIDNIGHT next year it was officially announced this week, so, today, we salute the smoky chanteuse about to bring her unmistakable allure and serious recording industry credibility back to the Great White Way in a major way.
Easy As Life
From fresh-faced mega-success as both a pop and R&B chart-topper - taking home Grammy Awards for both her #1 hits "Un-Break My Heart" and "You're Makin' Me High" in 1996 - to a Broadway leading lady and DANCING WITH THE STARS standout, Toni Braxton has had a unique and appreciable trajectory thus far in her career in the entertainment industry, excelling both in the recording studio and in the acting arena, and, recently even featuring in her own reality series, BRAXTON FAMILY VALUES. While many music fans will perhaps always know her best for many ubiquitous radio staples of the 1990s and 2000s, such as "Breathe Again", "Another Sad Love Song", "You Mean The World To Me", "I Belong To You", "He Wasn't Man Enough", "Hit The Freeway" and more, her work onstage in two Disney musicals around the millennium introduced her and indoctrinated her with a whole New Group of fans - and, with good reason.
Starring in the stage adaptation of Disney's super-successful screen version of BEAUTY & THE BEAST, Braxton made a smashing Broadway debut and aroused the interest of the movie and musical's composer himself, Alan Menken, in the process - so much so that he created a new musical moment in the show in her honor, as a matter of fact; the now irreplaceable spotlight song "A Change In Me". While some keys were adjusted to better suit her more dulcet and deep tones, the color-blind casting was also a boon for the production and opened the door for future actresses of perhaps less traditional fairy tale appearance to take on the title role, as well. It was a memorable debut that caused a sensation at the time, acting as a strong example of what initially could appear to be stunt-casting - putting a pop star in a famous role in a big family-friendly show - turning out to be quite ingenious and inventive when seen played out in full.
Then, Braxton followed up her Broadway debut a few years later with her replacement stint in Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA. Of course, Heather Headley famously won the Tony Award for the role originally, in one of the tightest Best Actress races in Tony Awards history, and Braxton maximized the inherent potential of the gigantic role in the epic show, complete with some unforgettable solo showstoppers - such as Act One closer "The Gods Love Nubia" and the breathtaking "Easy As Life". Plus, Braxton scored in a few truly terrific duets and group numbers, too - such as "Written In The Stars", "Elaborate Lives" and "How I Know You", among them. Indeed, AIDA was a prime performance showcase for the multi-talented R&B diva and the dramatic terrain afforded the actress allowed her to spread her wings in a new way, which would lead to subsequent dramatic pursuits, such as her recent starring role in Lifetime's TWIST OF FAITH.
More recently, while her DANCING WITH THE STARS performance failed to gain her the gold, Braxton went with the show on the road in 2008, keeping up her stage chops, while further impressing international audiences with her vocal turn alongside Il Divo, as well.
Toni Braxton is certainly a fine addition to the attention-grabbing roster of stars being lined up for AFTER MIDNIGHT on Broadway and we can certainly hope she will stay on Broadway a little longer than the brief stint announced for February given her considerable stage pedigree!
Yet, then again, even a little Toni is enough to make us fall in love all over again - and breathe again.
Another Sad Love Song
So, now, let's look at some of the most memorable musical moments from the recording booth, Broadway stage and beyond as they pertain to the one and only triple-threat that is Toni Braxton.
First up, here is Toni's first radio single, performing with her sisters as The Braxtons, with "Good Life".
Next, here is her first real big break and the song to cement her to us all - "Another Sad Love Song".
Now, here is another early pop/R&B hit, "Breathe Again".
Following that, another Babyface-masterminded gem, "You Mean The World To Me".
"You're Makin' Me High" was one of two Grammy Award-winning singles from Braxton's SECRETS.
Diane Warren's "Un-Break My Heart" has go on to become Braxton's most well-known and fondly remembered song to date, having been covered by countless artists since. But, there is only one Toni.
Princess Diana's memorial album featured Braxton's lush "How Could An Angel Break My Heart".
Braxton's first hit of the new millennium was "He Wasn't Man Enough".
The Neptunes produced her single "Hit The Freeway" in 2002.
Braxton joined many other mega-stars for WE ARE THE WORLD 25 to benefit Haitian charities.
Enjoy a glimpse of Braxton on Broadway in BEAUTY & THE BEAST via "A Change In Me" as seen on THE ROSIE O'DONNELL SHOW in 1998.
Listen to Braxton in AIDA on Broadway, triumphantly closing Act One with "The Gods Love Nubia".
Braxton performs the multi-part AIDA song "How I Know You", which fits her silky instrument like a glove.
As a special bonus, enjoy Toni Braxton performing AIDA's biggest ballad, "Easy As Life" live on Broadway.
So, what is your absolute favorite of Toni Braxton's many major radio hits to date? Favorite album? Furthermore, what has been your favorite stage performance of hers to date - BEAUTY & THE BEAST or AIDA? Most of all, what Duke Ellington songs do you anticipate her lending her anomalous and amazing vocals to - along with uber producer and longtime collaborator Kenneth Babyface Edmonds, no less - in AFTER MIDNIGHT most when she arrives on Broadway next year? So many possibilities!
Whatever your favorites, we all surely can't wait for Toni Braxton to un-break her dry spell and get back on Broadway. Say you love her again and join her for yet another sad love song... or two.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro