BWW Interview: Keri René Fuller on Her Debut Solo Show at The Green Room 42
Keri René Fuller is fresh off the national tour of Cats where she spent a year belting out her chill-inducing rendition of Memory as Grizabella. Fuller, who also graced the stage in Broadway's Waitress, is back in New York City and ready to make a splash, embarking on a brand new adventure, her first-ever solo show!
I had the chance to speak with the effervescent Fuller about what you can expect to hear at her solo show debut, what it feels like to step on stage as Grizabella versus stepping on stage as herself, what she hopes the audience will take away from her performance and more!
First off, this is your solo show debut, how are you feeling?
I am so excited, I genuinely thought that I would be more stressed out than I have been, but I have such an amazing team* with me that are not only supporting me by putting in the work to help me out, but also, they've all done this before, so I feel like I'm in such good hands. And I love The Green Room 42. So really, it's a win, win, win.
What can we expect to hear? What is the overarching theme of the night if there is one?
First off, there's not a single show tune to be found in the setlist! So I'm very excited about that simply because, not only did I just get off of the road singing the most iconic music theater song in all of the music theater canon, but I also feel like Broadway is going in this direction of pop/rock music no longer being a completely different genre than music theater. Which I think is extremely fascinating because I initially started out singing mainstream music when I first started performing. So this just really feels like I'm going back to not only my roots, but I also feel like mainstream music is really no different than music theater songs because there's still a driving force in all of those songs, there's still the ability to act and incorporate emotional vulnerability in every single song that's in the setlist. So, I'm really excited about it. I think it will be really special, and hopefully something The Green Room 42 hasn't seen in the near past.
So you'll be covering a little bit of every genre of music?
It's kind of everything! I've been trying to find the most prevalent genre that I'm covering, but really it's a very genre-fluid setlist. The overarching theme is about love. And not only romantic love, but platonic love, lost love, love for your sisterhood, love for your brotherhood, love for everybody that you meet and how there's so much humanity in just really trying to step into every situation with some sort of love at the forefront. That's probably the genre if I had to think of one single word, it's definitely love in all of its forms.
You just finished a year of touring with Cats, how did you decide that this solo show was what you wanted to take on next?
I've actually been wanting to do a solo concert for quite a while. I moved to the city in 2015 and I always really wanted to do some sort of cabaret/concert that is just myself because it's a huge fear of mine. I've done so many concerts with Feinstein's/54 Below, so many with The Green Room 42, The Duplex. One of my saving graces, when I moved to this city, was working with the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, and so I'd done so many pieces with them, and while I was on tour I was like, 'Okay Keri, now is the time. If you are going to do this, now is the time. You're coming back from being gone for a year, and you need a proper introduction back into this city. But I don't want to stand up there and sing Don't Rain on My Parade. I want everybody who comes into this concert to not really know what to expect. And to be surprised by the sheer genius of the people that I'm working with that are making this possible.' So, I said, 'There's no better time, you might as well just do it. Rip the Band-Aid off, it will be a blast, put in the work, and you won't regret it.'
What is the difference for you in the feeling of preparing for something like Cats where you're stepping into a famous role and singing one of the most well-known songs of all time, versus preparing now to step on stage as yourself?
It's really exciting. Because I think coming off of a production where people came in thinking they knew exactly what to expect is a beautiful antithesis to what this concert will be. It's still just as vocally demanding, if not even more so, to do this whole concert versus singing Grizabella eight times a week. This is very cliché and cheesy, but Grizabella taught me a lot about what vulnerability is. And I found that by not trying to sound like anybody that came before me singing Memory translates really well. I will be covering a lot of pop songs that people have heard, haven't heard, and I'm still, yet again, trying to be vulnerable and allow myself to go in as me, Keri René Fuller, and not trying to sound like Billie Eilish or Brandi Carlile or Julia Michaels. I'm not trying to sound like the people that wrote these songs because that's not what makes me unique. What makes me unique is going in and just doing what I love and doing what I know, and hopefully, people will resonate just as well with this solo concert as they did with Memory. That's the hope, I'm crossing my fingers really hard!
Who are some performers that have influenced you?
You know, what I think is probably one of my favorite experiences being in the city is when I got to participate in the Broadway Sings series. I went to school with Corey Mach who produces and performs in those concerts, so I've known him for a while, we've also done a couple productions together, and the fact that he goes in with his collaborator and does these amazing variations on all of these songs of artists we know and love has inspired me a lot since I've been in this city. And people go in not knowing what to expect, they know they know the words, they know the general gist of what the song is going to sound like, but there's this beautiful spin that they do on all of their pieces that it's like a slap wake up call and it's just the most amazing experience, like blood coursing through your veins. So I'm not doing anything crazy covering-wise like Broadway Sings does, but it's definitely not a lot of songs that people who know me and have seen me perform are used to hearing me sing. So that's kind of exciting and scary at the same time!
What is your dream song to sing?
Honestly, and this is also kind of cliché since I did Waitress, but Sara Bareilles in general, all of her songs would be a dream to sing. And luckily, one of them is in my concert!
Now, if you had a song that is super out there, very out of your comfort zone and might not ever end up in your show... but it would still be a dream to sing, what would that song be?
The first thing that came to mind when you said that was Holocene by Bon Iver. Every single time I hear that song it's like a chemical reaction happens inside of my body and I don't know what it is because I've heard the song so many times, yet every time I listen to it I just want to lay in a field of grass and have that literally be the only thing I hear for like, an hour.
What are your pre-show rituals?
I have a humidifier near. That's pretty commonplace for any performer, other than staying hydrated and making sure that your vocal mileage is balanced with what you have to accomplish in your show. If you think about your voice being like a gas meter in a car, you don't want your vocal mileage to be all the way at empty by the time you go to bed at night. You want leftover in the tank so when you wake up in the morning it's like, 'Okay, I'm still feeling fresh, I didn't overdo it last night.' But I can tell a drastic difference in when I sleep with a humidifier and when I don't. So, that's my number one go-to, and always apple juice, apple juice is a weird quirky hydrator that I use a lot!
What do you want the audience to take away from your show? How do you want them to walk away feeling?
I want them to feel inspired to smile at random strangers on the street because in New York specifically, I have found that there are a lot of kind people here, but because our lives are so busy and because we are going from one appointment to the next, I find that we forget to just do simple things like smile at someone. Who knows if that's going to make their day. Who knows what their day has been like that if you smile at them everything feels okay again.
You can see Keri René Fuller at The Green Room 42 on Saturday, February 15th at 9:30 PM.
Click HERE for more information.
*Keri René Fuller's Team:
Jacob Fjeldheim: Music Direction and multi-faceted musician
Georgia Weber: Bass
Joshua Roberts: Percussion
David Kawamura: Guitar
Brandon Michael Nase: Direction and Background Vocalist
Maria Failla: Background Vocalist
Andrew Kotzen: Background Vocalist
Shayla Brielle G: Background Vocalist