BWW Blog: Natalie Toro - Who Was This Eponine a Very Long Time Ago...
What the hell are you going to Blog about Natalie? What is so important in your life since your last Blog a few days ago, that you can write that's interesting enough for the world to read? I'll tell you how. Because I just received a very heartfelt, courageous message on my FB Fan Page from a woman who felt the urge to write me after all these years. I'm dying right now. It's 1AM and I have a polarity of feelings going through my soul.
Yes, we have all seen Les Miserables. Yes, we have all fallen in love with the story, the music and the characters, and on the heels of the film, its perfect timing. When I first sat in the audience of Les Miserables at The Broadway Theater, I couldn't breathe. I was "done" by Fantine's death. Choking on my own snot, and not knowing how on earth I could ever have cried that much, it really felt like a death. I will never forget that experience. Neither will the old guy sitting next to me. I think I grossed him out!
A week later, I auditioned and got the role of Eponine. The show only had been running for about a year. Damn...I felt like I was the luckiest girl on this planet. My mom was so happy, she threw a summer block party with banners that read, "NATALIE IS GOING TO BROADWAY" You have to understand, this is huge. My parents came from Puerto Rico, my dad wanting to be a professional singer and my mom dreaming since she was a little girl to be a Ballerina. That never happened. So they both secretly lived vicariously when my dreams started to become a reality. I actually think they were shocked!
I don't have to tell you what an experience being on Broadway is about or what it's like being in the most famous musical, but it ROCKED! Yeah, of course, there were ups and downs backstage, people not getting along, confusion, competition, back stabbers... y'know the same stuff that happens at any job. But once that downbeat happened and the fog machines started putting that chemical sh*t in the air, we were ONE for three and a half hours. Don't get me wrong. We did love each other and were a family. But when there is a family of 60 or more, there is bound to be some days that are miserable.
I played the role for a very long time. Some might say too long, but who cares? What do they know, right? I remember a particular day when I went to a nearby gym in between shows one Wednesday. All I wanted to do was get in the Jacuzzi and relax. When I entered the pool, there were two girls already in it, probably in there 20's. They took me by surprise when they asked if I was Natalie Toro. I turned around and said yes. Right as I started to get my body in the hot pool, slowly, they whipped at me, "God, are you EVER going to leave that show and give someone else a chance to play that role?" EXCUSE ME? And if you knew me back then, I was no pushover. I can't even write here what I said back. Let's just say they left with their tail in between their bathing suits!
Okay, sorry, I'm back. Anyway, all I know is that every night was a different experience for me. Eponine had so many layers cause Natalie had so many layers. I am so instinctual in my acting that sometimes it gets in the way of my performance. Like if I had a REALLY bad day...I promise you, Eponine had an even worse day. I brought my own life into this shredded girl and sometimes, I couldn't shake her when I went home. So with practice, I had intended to work on leaving her at the theater and it worked, most of the time.
Long run, eight shows a week, I forgot what it was doing to the audience every night. I forgot that they were feeling all those feelings I felt when I first saw the show. Until at the very end, at the stage door after the performances, did I see the very core of these people. They were a mess! I had young girls literally shaking and crying when they were in front of me. I remember this one girl, in her late teens who could not control herself. She was so nervous, she couldn't speak. She didn't know what to do? She finally took a small ring off of her finger and gave it to me, gave me a hug and walked away. I was so young and stupid. I felt compassion for them but it really didn't hit home, until I started to get the letters, fan mail in my mailbox at the theater every week from young girls like me who told me I saved their lives. "WHAT? What do you mean I saved your life?" (said with a Bronx girl NY attitude and accent)
Girls who felt they had nothing to live for. Girls who wanted to take their own lives. Girls who wanted to die. Oh God, even as I write this, my throat is having a hard time swallowing.
Let me remind you that this was a long time ago. There was no Internet, no cell phones, and no computers. Okay. I'll stop aging myself now. But seriously, we or let me correct myself, I, didn't know anything about that. Teenage suicide wasn't on the 10 O'clock news? It just wasn't! They kept that sh*t a secret!
What was happening was that these girls would come to see Les Miz and identify with Eponine in some abstract, obscure way. The frequency and the connection was so intense for them, that they all of sudden had a reason to live and didn't want to die. Okay...huge...and suddenly it became a part of mylife.
So, I paid attention to my performances and paid attention to these beautiful young souls that would give their right arm to meet me. I just paid attention. I remember standing for hours at the stage door, talking to fans and making sure that they felt like they got all that they could from me. It became part of my job and it still is to this day.
So tonight, I received an email similar to the ones years ago. She is in her 30's now and thanked me for saving her life from suicide. She wrote that my performance brought joy and light into a sad teenager that couldn't connect with anyone before then. Hmmm...so many emotions running through me at this moment.
I do thank her for taking the time to write me. That took an amazing amount of bravery. I thank all those girls/fans for teaching me a valuable lesson and making me realize I had a responsibility and purpose. I thank my Les Miz family and I thank, Eponine, for teaching me the true meaning of unrequited love.
PS...I bet you are all wondering what I thought of the film? Tune in to next week's blog and maybe I'll give you my review. xo