BWW Interviews: Natalie Weiss Talks Houston Workshops and Cabaret Concerts
Continuing with the popular Straight From New York Concert Series and workshops, Tyce Green, in partnership with Bryan-Keyth Wilson's The Wilson School of Acting & Musical Theatre, is bringing YouTube sensation, American Idol alum, and stage veteran Natalie Weiss to Houston, TX. In anticipation of her workshops and cabaret performances, I recently spoke with her about her burgeoning career and her Houston concerts and workshops.
BWW: How did you first get involved in theatre?
Natalie Weiss: I went to a performing arts high school for half a day. Well, starting out, I went to a sleep away camp that did shows. I started out with piano lessons first. I always played sports, so I kind of had to quit sports to take singing lessons and become more serious about it. Growing up, I did maybe one community theatre show and mostly just like high school musicals. Then, I majored in musical theatre at Penn State.
BWW: When did you know you wanted to perform professionally?
Natalie Weiss: I think I always grew up wanting to be a pop star. I realized that you can't really major in pop stardom, so I got into theatre, saw musicals, and saw concerts. I saw a lot of pop concerts growing up, and I realized musical theatre is kind of the route I had to take. I think I realized I wanted to major in it-and majoring in it means you want to perform professionally-probably my junior or senior year of high school.
BWW: You've been involved with hit shows like WICKED and LES MISERABLES. What were those experiences like for you?
Natalie Weiss: Well, WICKED was very short. I was replacing someone who got injured, so I only got to see two cities. I was only doing the ensemble role because there was no time to teach me the other role. That was very quick, but LES MIZ was an almost three year tour experience. I got to start with a new company from the beginning, which was cool. We went through the whole tech process, I got to learn all the tracks, I got to see probably 85 cities, and I got paid to travel.
BWW: What was the inspiration for your "Breaking Down the Riffs" web series?
Natalie Weiss: People would always be coming to me in college and saying, "Help me with this riff" or "Help me with this pop song." A couple of years ago, one of my friends taught me how to learn this really hard Mariah Carey riff-the one in episode two. I was like, "I could never figure that out." He said, "It's easy. It's just in four sections." He, for lack of better words, "broke it down" for me, but it wasn't coined break it down. He just kind of separated the sections into counts, saying "1,2,3,4,5. 1,2,3,4," and he taught it to me. I was like "Oh, that's so easy now."
Then, the Beyoncé "Halo" riff was everyone's favorite riff at the time. A different friend told me, "I can't do it." I said, "Yeah, you can. Let me just count the notes. It's 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 notes." It kind of skips the 5th note in the scale, so it should be 1,2,3,4,6,7,8, but the terminology made more since with 7. So, I told her to tilt her head on the 5th note, and she got it.
I was just going to film one video with a bunch of riffs, and my friend said, "Why don't you do one riff per video?" Then, I asked my friend to film it with an iPhone, and he said, "I have this good camera." So, he filmed it, not knowing anything. I didn't plan anything else out. I didn't know he was such a good editor. It just kind of became what it is-bigger than I thought.
BWW: In Houston, you'll be conducting workshops with local students. What are you looking forward to the most about that experience?
Natalie Weiss: I'll be able to teach a bunch of different groups of students throughout the week. I won't just be making an appearance at one school and then leaving the city. I'll be able to hopefully maybe see them more than once since I'll be there for the week. I don't know if they'll repeat or if I'll see a different group everyday. I'm always excited to teach, in general, and I'm excited to meet people in Houston!
BWW: What are your favorite aspects of teaching and mentoring?
Natalie Weiss: Well, I realized that because I'm only child I never had siblings looking up to me. A lot of my love for teaching has to do with that. I enjoy having the younger fans listen to what I have to say and really improve their skills by doing what I'm saying. It makes me feel like I'm making a difference. Growing up, I just had my friends, so I cherish teaching people that are younger than me so they can learn from me and look up to me.
Also, I just like seeing improvement and knowing that I have something to offer. I like teaching people things I never knew growing up. Things that I wish I knew. It's always interesting to get my students on the same page that I am now with the skills I wish I had known when I was younger.
BWW: Also, while you're in Houston, you'll be performing a solo cabaret in the Straight From New York Concert Series. What can Houston audiences expect from your concerts?
Natalie Weiss: I think they can expect to hear a mix of favorites, a.k.a. probably popular YouTube videos, a few songs I premiered at my 54 BELOW show, maybe some mash-ups, some stripped down things at the piano, and some fun pop-rock arrangements.
BWW: Are there any dream roles that you'd like to play?
Natalie Weiss: Yes! Vivienne in LEGALLY BLONDE and Cathy in THE LAST FIVE YEARS. That's what I got for now.
BWW: What advice do you offer to others hoping to make a career in performing?
Natalie Weiss: I would say that they should be willing to put themselves out there as much possible. They should sing at every open mic opportunity, audition for every show so all the casting directors get to know them, be nice to everybody they meet, they have to build up a thick skin because they're going to get a lot of no's and people criticizing them, and if they can see themselves doing anything else besides theatre, do that. I never had any other interests. I wasn't going to be a neurosurgeon. Also, they should find other side projects that make them happy so that they're not consumed with the business. That way they can always keep busy with their other side projects.
Natalie Weiss will be teaching a Vocal Master Class for The Wilson School of Acting & Musical Theatre at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. For more information about this class please visit http://www.thewilsonschoolamt.com or call (713) 714-7TWS.
Natalie Weiss will also be teaching classes with the Straight from New York Workshop series on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 and Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. at Jersey Village High School, 7600 Solomon Street, Houston, 77040. Also, Natalie Weiss will be performing two solo cabaret concerts on Friday, April 4, 2014 and Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 8:00 p.m. at The Music Box Theater, 2623 Colquitt Street, Houston, 77098. For tickets and more information about the classes and/or concert performances, please visit http://www.straightfromnewyork.com or call (713) 522-7722.
Headshot of Natalie Weiss.