BY CARY GINELL
VCOS: Did the musicians travel with you as well?
NATALIE: Yes, we had our own orchestra. They were with us most of the time, but it just depended on the local unions in the cities. Sometimes the theater said that we had to use a certain number of their union musicians. When we performed at the Kennedy Center, they all had to be Washington, D. C. union musicians. When that happens, our music director has to come in and hope that these musicians are going to be up to speed to play a really difficult score.
VCOS: Do they sight-read it?
NATALIE: Yes. (laughs)
VCOS: Did it ever throw you?
NATALIE: Sometimes it did. We had a lot of funny things happen where you’re used to one note coming in and it’s the wrong note. And you watch everyone on stage kind of twitch, you know, that confused look a dog gets on its face when it hears a high-pitched noise. That’s the other thing about doing a show for a long time. Sometimes you just break. When you’ve done it for so long, sometimes you get the giggles. That was the hardest part for me, when one of my friends would break and start laughing, it was almost impossible for me not to start laughing too.
VCOS: Any disasters happen?
NATALIE: Sometimes people would get hurt; that would be the worst. We’re wearing these habits, these long, long dresses, and there’s so much material everywhere and we’re dressing in small spaces. We actually traveled with our deck, which is the platform that goes on the stage, and it had all of our tape marks and everything on it. That would fold up, and they’d put it in the truck and then put it up on the stage of the next theater. The deck was placed off stage and sometimes you’d trip or you’d run into each other, so there were some sprained ankles. But we had some very funny costume malfunctions, especially with the nuns’ veils. Sometimes the veils would just fall off. And if you’ve ever seen a nun with the veil off, it’s just like a cue-tip head. (laughs) And you’re doing a dance, the veil falls off, and you’re thinking, there’s nothing I can do right now. One of my friends’ veil fell off and she started chasing it around the stage while the rest of us were dancing because it’s just so humiliating to stand there without it on. It was funny when things like that happened.
VCOS: Anything like that happen to you?
NATALIE: Yes, one time my veil flew off. It was at the tail end of a number where I throw my arms up. It was our first song and the veil went flying off my head. Recently, in Baltimore, we had an understudy on for the male lead, Sweaty Eddie. He’s a policeman, and at the end of the show, he’s supposed to do this suave thing where he takes his hat off and saunters over to the girl playing Deloris and kisses her. He’s been kind of a nerd the whole time so this is his moment. Instead of it happening, he turned to her, went to take his hat off, and he knocked it off. And it rolled across the stage in slow motion, so all of us were watching it, but none of us could go get it because it’s this silent moment. And it fell into the orchestra pit and hit the keyboard. Rolllll – blink! That’s literally the funniest thing I’ve ever experienced on stage. It was like Looney Tunes.
VCOS: So how did they fix it?
NATALIE: Well, it terrified the keyboardist. He just freaked out because it came flying out of nowhere. But I think everyone laughed. We were all just laughing on stage, and it was just one of those moments that are really the best for the audience because they’re let in on the magic of live theater.
VCOS: Do you ever go absolutely blank on stage and forget what you’re supposed to be doing?
NATALIE: Maybe four to six months into the show, I was doing a dance, and what happens is, since you’ve been doing it for so long, you’re not focused on it, so sometimes when I wasn’t focused, my mind would be going, oh, what am I going to eat after the show? And that’s because I’ve been doing this dance, literally, hundreds of times, so I know it. But one time I was in the middle of a dance that I’d done probably two hundred times, and I forgot what I was doing. I don’t even know how I forgot what I was doing, but luckily it was in my muscle memory so I got back into it, but there was this terrible moment where your mind doesn’t know what’s coming next. That was very weird.
Our interview with Natalie will conclude later this week.