BWW Interviews: Natascia Diaz of KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN at 54 Below

By: Oct. 11, 2014
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Six years ago, Natascia Diaz starred in Kander, Ebb and McNally's Kiss of the Spider Woman at Signature Theatre in Washington, D.C., playing the title role. On Sunday, she returns to the role for two concerts of the musical's songs at 54 Below (at 7 and at 9:30 p.m.), alongside Cheryl Freeman, Nicholas Rodriguez, Graham Bailey, Stephen Orr, Paul Pontrelli and Michael Romeo Ruocco.

"It feels really amazing," Diaz said about the return as she was preparing for rehearsals. "I understand the energy of it more...I understand where it was loose. I feel more confident, more at ease. I understand a lot more about how little effort you need to be effective. Sometimes, less is more."

The musical, which takes place both in the cramped confines of a Latin American prison cell and in the infinite space of the imagination, seems ideally suited for an intimate cabaret stage: The story follows the growing friendship between two prisoners, one of whom remembers and narrates movies from his childhood as a way to cope with captivity and pass the time. Minimalism will be a major factor of Sunday's concerts, which will only run 50 minutes and will not have any of the choreography of a fully staged show. "This is a totally different venue," Diaz said. "This is a club. There isn't that much mystery--[the audience is] right there, staring up your dress!" One of the freedoms of a concert production, she added, is that she will not need to create a full character as she would in a traditional staging. "My job this time is to evoke the essence of that part and the score," she said.

The opportunity to revisit the show, she added, is "very much dictated by the venue...There's something freeing about not having to do choreography--although I'd absolutely love to do it!" she added quickly. But the concert version presents some unique opportunities in its own right, she believes, including a more intense focus on the emotion of the songs. "You can really just focus on what the song is there for--and to my mind, it's all there to heal Molina. That's [Aurora's] entire reason for being."

As of the interview time, Diaz was not sure what songs she would be singing in the concerts--or even what songs would be included in the hour-long evening. "There could be a few iconic numbers that I'm actually not doing," she noted. Still, she added quickly, she was " be onstage, singing this [score] and evoking this [character] in that setting--we're not trying to put on a big Broadway show; we're just evoking the score."

Still, she added at the time, she hoped she would have the opportunity to present some deeper elements of the character and the dichotomy of her symbolizing both life and death. But the limits of the concerts would also encourage the audience to use their own imaginations, she added. "It will be like--turn off the lights and turn on your mind!," she said, quoting a line from the show. "The whole scene will be alive in my mind [and] I think the audience's mind and imagination [will also be] turned on. There's no set. There's hardly a division between the stage and the tables. So I think there'll be a lot of imagination being illuminated."