On Sunday night I got to see someone sing live that I’ve wanted to see for ages. Natalie Weiss is pretty well known on New York’s theatre scene, and by the YouTube generation of luvvies, but, in a world where millions are tuning in to hear this sort of thing on a Saturday night, she’s definitely not famous enough.
Weiss has the most incredible musical theatre-pop crossover voice, partly because she’s musical first and an excellent riffer second (she even has her own video tutorial series, Breaking Down the Riffs), and also because she’s seriously studied the art of a great vocal. She’s a fangirl herself – she loves. Beyoncé, Christina and Mariah Carey, and was a very early adopter of Jessie J’s hits.
Monstrously, she’s never quite had that starring moment on the US theatre scene, touring for years with Les Miserables in ensemble roles. But that voice is crying out for an incredible one woman show – someone make it so!
Anyway, her debut London gig at the gorgeous new St James’ Theatre was even better than I could have expected – Weiss went above and beyond. It’s too much to summarise without fangirling all over my lunch, so here are 10 reasons I love Natalie Weiss:
1. She could be your best mate
As a live performer, she shares stories of creepy OKCupid messages and gets everyone dancing to a Destiny’s Child/TLC mashup. And all in a dress that you’d def be borrowing if she was your BFF.
2. She has great taste in music
NW gave shout outs to Brit stars Jessie J and Sam Smith, encouraged UK composers to send her songs to sing and got everyone alternately teary and joyous with musical theatre from Jonathan Reid Gealt to The Color Purple. She can sing anything, but doesn’t just sit on the classic diva hits.
3. She’s funny
Oh god, funny women in theatre. Where are you? Musical theatre girls are too identikit, Wasp-y blondes with samey nasal voices singing The Last Five Years. No. More of this please.
4. She’s as sweaty as you or I
Natalie brought a turquoise blue towel onstage with her, named it Timmy and proceeded to mop herself down merrily between numbers. I tend to emotionally sweat through really amazing musical theatre, so I could’ve done with a bit of Timmy action myself by the end. Throw your BFF a towel, Nat!
5. She’s creative
Not only is Breaking Down The Riffs a huge hit with the online musical community, Nat’s recent videos for The Most Literal Audition parts one and two were simple but hilarious. Viral stuff.
6. She can’t do a British accent
And not for want of trying. But we love her anyway.
7. The riff at 4.19 of this video
Can we just talk about that riff for a second? Can we just make that riff PRESIDENT?
8. Because she didn’t need a show to make her a star
It’s all about being Twitterpreneurial these days, and Weissy* has built her own brand. And her brand is part Sasha Fierce and part Lena Dunham in Girls, which you have to respect.
9. She doesn’t hold back
Weiss is doing several shows in the UK, and mentioned that her voice had been a little hesitant after her first matinee show, before ours. You’d never know, because she took some serious risks and gave it 100% throughout. Plus, you know, two encores.
10. She’s not afraid to get niche
One of the things I loved most about Sunday’s set list was the lack of crowd pleasers. She could have done I’m a Star (a track she’s possibly best known for), something big in the West End right now, a straight number from Les Mis. But she was bold enough to choose artists and composers that the crowd SHOULD know, rather than ones we already did. From Jessie J album tracks to Dogfight and obscure pop, I wanted to download everything that came out of her mouth. That sounds weird, but I stand by it.
And that concludes my fangirling for the week/month/year. Come back to London soon please!
*Apologies for all over-familiarisations in this post, Nat/NW/Weissy, if you’re reading.
*UPDATE* There’s now a video trailer of Weiss’ London gig! Enjoy.