Back home on stage in Thousand Oaks, an all-grown-up ’80s icon relishes her roots

 Debbie Gibson

A sweetly prim voice singing “Don’t cry, young lovers” wafted upward as buyers of organic apples and lettuce milled around the Thousand Oaks farmers market, oblivious to the music royalty below.

The weekly produce market sits atop the Hillcrest Center for the Arts, where a rehearsal was about to begin for Cabrillo Music Theatre’s production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I.”

Outside the building’s rehearsal room stood the show’s female lead, alone, practicing the song “Hello, Young Lovers.”

Any shoppers who did hear her would probably never guess that the professionally poised voice belonged to ’80s teen idol Deborah Gibson, whose multiplatinum albums “Out of the Blue” (1987) and “Electric Youth” (1989) spawned five Top 10 singles, including “Only in My Dreams” and “Lost in Your Eyes.”

All grown up at 38, the singer, formerly dubbed “Debbie” by the music industry and a “pop princess” by the media, is back where she feels she’s always belonged: on a musical-theater stage.

For 16 years, Gibson has performed on Broadway, in London and around the United States, including stints as Eponine in “Les Misérables,” Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” and Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.”

Her latest role is playing Anna Leonowens — the “I” in “The King and I” — for Cabrillo’s production of the Tony Award-winning musical, opening Friday at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

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