BWW Reviews: Natalie Weiss' Personality Overshadows Vocal Talent in Houston Cabaret
As a YouTube sensation, many are familiar enough with Natalie Weiss' voice and face, and the largely teenage/early 20s audience last night couldn't be more enthusiastic to see her perform live. Yet, somewhere along the way, her abrasive personality overshadowed her vocal talent.
Don't get me wrong, the brash New Englander is my favorite form of American. I enjoy the stereotypical confidence and charisma of the typical North Easterner. However, when one comes on stage to sing for an audience, that is what I expect to happen.
It's easy enough to forgive the 17-minute delay at the beginning of the concert. Well, that is until the first act wrapped in about 35 minutes. The second act dragged out a bit longer, as Natalie Weiss added a song to the set not included in the program. She also returned for a three song encore. Even with this, the concert still ended at the stroke of 10:00 p.m., meaning between banter and singing, last night's audience got approximately 88 minutes of Natalie Weiss on stage.
Moreover, Natalie Weiss' banter didn't really hook the audience in Houston. It took almost the entirety of the first act for the crowd to warm up to her. Before the Act I closer, she read actual messages from her OkCupid inbox. This was Natalie Weiss at her most genuine. In these moments, she didn't seem like she was putting up a front. I get that "all the world's a stage," and her job is to perform. However, the beauty of an intimate cabaret concert is that you get to be real. Others treat the experience like they are performing in their living room for long lost friends, and that dynamic is what seemed to be missing the most from last night's concert.
Moreover, her encore was a fun selection of audience favorites. It started with a lovely take on "Bring Him Home" from LES MISERABLES, but the song fell apart for me at the end when she added needless riffs. She followed this with her rendition of "Let It Go" from Disney's FROZEN, which the audience had been clamoring for since the show's beginning. Then, she closed with her take on Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper."
I can't deny that the vocal performances she offered were thrilling. Natalie Weiss also deftly delivered many an impressive vocal riff. Opening with a cover of "Titanium," she made the performance fun by walking through the crowd to get to the stage. Her "Spark of Creation" from CHILDREN OF EDEN was captivating, as was her "On Monday" from Ryan Scott Oliver's 35MM. Additionally, her rendition of "I'm Here" from THE COLOR PURPLE was brilliantly soulful. My favorite performance of hers was the energetic and colorful mash-up she did of Destiny Child's "Bug a Boo" and TLC's "No Scrubs."
Even with the impressive vocals, her need to stop and restart some songs (except when she choked on water) got in the way of her performances. It also rubbed me the wrong way when she called out David Lerner on the drums twice for missing cues. I understand fully that she had less than one week to rehearse with her band. At least she tried to cover it in jest, attempting to make a joke of it by more-or-less welcoming the audience to her "casual" open rehearsal.
However, it was her declaration of "usually, I don't do this. Normally, I can't talk by now" at the beginning of the encore that really raised my ire. Every voice lesson teacher I've ever had would remind her that if she was doing solid vocal warm-up and properly supporting and singing from her diaphragm that she'd be able to sing, belt, and riff on 15 songs every night for weeks on end without having to worry about the fact that she has concerts on two consecutive nights.
With that said, Natalie Weiss' cabaret in Houston wasn't a total bust. The audience got to hear some sturdy vocal performances. The teenagers and young 20-somethings got to see one of their heroes perform live. Everyone had some laughs. However, I'd hazard to guess that Natalie Weiss, who seemed truly to be performing for herself, had the most fun last night.
If you missed Natalie Weiss last night, you have one more opportunity to see her live on stage in Houston as part of Tyce Green's incredible Straight From New York Concert Series at The Music Box Theater at 2623 Colquitt Street, Houston, 77098. For tickets and more information about tonight's concert, please visit http://www.straightfromnewyork.com or call (713) 522-7722.
Photos by David Clarke.
Natalie Weiss answering audience questions via Twitter.