BY CARY GINELL
Ventura County’s loss will be Broadway’s gain when Natalie Storrs leaves the Conejo Valley in a month or so to test the waters in the Big Apple. At 26, Natalie is already a veteran of dozens of musicals, plays, TV & film projects, and commercials. She has been seen locally in Cabrillo Music Theatre’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Lucy) and Legally Blonde (Vivienne), in addition to performing with other companies in the Southern California area. Recently, Natalie spent eight months playing Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours in the national touring company of Sister Act. She hopes this will lead to starring roles on Broadway as well.
Being on a national tour of a major Broadway quality musical is something many young actors dream about, but what is it really like to be constantly performing the same show, day in and day out in a strange city every week? We talked to Natalie about this aspect of her fast moving career.
VCOS: So how did you get the opportunity to tour with Sister Act?
NATALIE: Oh my gosh, it truly came out of nowhere for me. But that’s how it happens sometimes. You work really hard and go to as many auditions as you can, and I was very lucky because I had a great support system with my family. So right out of college I was able to work as well as start to audition for everything. So I was lucky and fortunate in getting cast right out of school.
VCOS: Was this your first tour?
NATALIE: Yes. I had just finished Legally Blonde at Cabrillo and I was about to start the Utah Shakespeare Festival, doing The Marvelous Wonderettes and also understudying Richard II up there. I had an acquaintance on the tour who had actually worked at Cabrillo before, Ashley Moniz. She had met my family and me when we did Beauty and the Beast many, many years ago. She played Belle. And she was currently on the Sister Act tour. A few weeks before the audition, she sent me a Facebook message saying, “I know you’re in L.A. and see that you’re playing Vivienne in Legally Blonde. We’re going to be holding auditions and my music director asked us if we had anyone that we could recommend from L.A. And I thought of you.” It really came out of the blue and I was really surprised because we were more less only acquaintances and it was amazing that she had thought of me. So I auditioned right before I headed out to Utah.
VCOS: Did you audition for any one particular part?
NATALIE: I was originally called in for Sister Mary Robert, who is the young nun. But they didn’t need that replacement so when I got there, they had me read for the part that I understudied in the show, which was Mary Martin of Tours. She’s kind of in her own world and a little out of it. She’s a very funny character. So I read for that and ended up being the understudy for that part.
VCOS: Did you have any expectations of what a tour would be like?
NATALIE: I think I was realistic about the fact that it would be harder. I was with the tour for eight months. I started with them in late October. We rehearsed in Washington, D. C. while the tour was there. What I didn’t expect was how quickly we had to learn the show and how much information there was.
VCOS: How long did you have?
NATALIE: There were four of us who started rehearsing at the same time. Me and another girl were playing nuns and there were two men who they cast in other parts. The other girl, Micaela Martinez, and I were learning the show together. I think we learned the entire show in maybe four days. Sister Act doesn’t have difficult dancing but it’s a lot of patting-your-head-and-rubbing-your-belly kind of choreography. It was just a lot, being flown out to D. C., being thrown into this company, and then, all of a sudden, you’re in rehearsal! All day.
VCOS: Why did they need you to go to D. C.? Was the other actress leaving?
NATALIE: Yes. That’s the other thing about being on tour because people are always coming and going. With our specific contract, most of us needed to give four weeks’ notice before leaving. The tour had been out for a little over a year and so by that point there had been people who had been with them a long time and decided, “OK, it’s time.” Enough of wearing a habit and sweating on stage. The girl I replaced was actually getting married fairly soon and she needed to take some time to plan her wedding.
VCOS: How did the rehearsals go?
NATALIE: We had a two week rehearsal process. There were eight days of rehearsal before we did our put-in with the company, which means running the whole show with the whole company, with costumes and everything. Ours was even more intense because the Broadway associate director was there, giving notes, so he watched our put-in, which usually doesn’t happen when people join the tour; it’s usually run by the stage manager. Equity gives you about two weeks of rehearsal and then you go in. We had our put-in after eight or ten days. It was the second Friday of me being out there. We had started rehearsing on a Wednesday. It was crazy, but a very good experience for me.
In the next segment of our interview, Natalie talks about her first performance on the Sister Act tour.