By Andrew Gans
28 Jun 2013
This week's column spotlights three of the women featured in the 2013 New York Musical Theatre Festival, which runs July 8-28 at various venues around the city. Diva Talk posed the same set of questions to each talented artist; their answers, via email, follow.
Natalie Joy Johnson
Natalie Joy Johnson: Full Bush at the The Pershing Square Signature Center - Studio Theatre; July 11-14
How did you get involved with this production?
John Hill, Brian J. Nash and I have known each other for years. And, back in 2011, we teamed up for my one-woman show Natalie Joy Johnson is Relentless at Joe’s Pub. Our show wasn’t your typical one-woman concert with some torch songs and some chitchat. This was a fully scripted, theatrical piece – essentially a 70-minute monologue with moments of songs here and there that furthered the story. And, it was funny and bawdy and vulnerable and ridiculous! It was electric – that first performance – there was such a feeling of love from the audience, and permission to really let me be Relentless for them! Relentless remains one of my proudest moments in my career thus far.
Considering what fun we had with that show, and how exciting it was to create such a special, fresh, piece that was so well received – when Isaac Hurwitz reached out to me for the festival, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the magic happen again.
What other NYMF productions have you been a part of?
Interestingly enough, the only NYMF show that I’ve done was back in 2005. I played Sinead in But I’m A Cheerleader, alongside John Hill as Rock, with musical direction by Brian Nash. How fitting that we’ve returned back to the Festival where we all worked together for the first time!
How would you describe the character you're playing?
Ha! Well, the character’s name is Natalie Joy Johnson, so there are some inherent sensibilities that are similar. But I would say she’s a bit more grand, a bit more boozy and a bit more over the top than I am. And, that’s saying a lot. There are moments of the story that are inspired by my real-life events, and then there are those that are sheer fabrications. But, I’ll never tell which…
Let’s just say this – she’s a woman down on her luck, who’s looking for love from a variety of sources, who learns that perhaps she only really needs to look within herself. Deep, deep inside of her self. Full Bush.
Why do you think audiences should attend this particular production?
When Isaac Hurwitz and I talked about doing the NYMF concert series, he challenged me not to do a typical one-woman show, but to push the envelope and to a make it a more theatrical experience. And we have accepted the challenge.
Full Bush is hilarious, heartbreaking and ridiculous. It’s not your typical "park and bark"-style cabaret. We are going to transport you, and take you on a journey deep inside the Bush.
Why do you think NYMF is so important?
I think NYMF provides a crucial platform for artists to be able to create and produce new material. And to be seen in front of New York audiences who are eager for that new material - what a dream!
NYMF celebrates new musicals, but which role in a classic musical would you most like to perform and why?
How much time do you have?? There are so many classic roles that I love! Not the least of which is Dolly Levi inHello, Dolly! I also love Mrs. Lovett inSweeney Todd. But secret dream role that I’d be totally willing to lose 30 pounds for? Dot in Sunday in the Park with George! “We do not beloooooooooonnnnngggg together!!! And we should have belooonnnged….” I can’t! I love it so much!!!
What is your most memorable onstage mishap?
Well, there are ones that happen weekly at Brian and [my] weekly show at Therapy (which is free, every Tuesday at 11 PM! 52nd between 8th & 9th). But the theatre one that always pops to mind was during bare: a pop opera. Back in the day, the character of Nadia played a cello. So, I had been rehearsing with the cello and a new bow. Now, bows are made up of thin fibers which need this substance called rosin on it, in order to produce sound. Not to burst anyone’s bubble – but I wasn’t playing live, so we didn’t put any rosin on my bow because we didn’t want it making any sound. So that left the fibers loose. Well, I was new to the instrument, and while I was playing and singing the song “Spring,” I bowed a little too low and the bow – not treated with rosin and loose and fibrous – totally got stuck into the tailpiece. Like, I move it and it was just hanging there. Meanwhile, the track is still playing! And there was that moment with the audience where we all realized it was stuck – I knew, they knew, and the music is playing. So, I dropped the bow, which was still hanging to the cello, and “plucked” my way through the rest of the song. It was amazing! The audience laughed, and loved me for the rest of the show, because we were all a part of this “real” moment which wasn’t supposed to happen at all!
What was your most enjoyable theatrical experience of the season (as a member of the audience)?
I had such a blast seeing the opening night of Kinky Boots this year! My dear friend, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, is one of the Angels, and I got to be his date for the evening! It was such a great night and such a fun show!
Do you have any other projects in the works?
Well, Brian and I will be continuing our weekly show at Therapy every Tuesday night at 11 PM. It’s been such a blessing for us to have a weekly home where we can try out all sorts of new, crazy material and to really hone our style.
And, I’m so excited to head up to Barrington Stage directly following our run of Full Bush to do Southern Comfort again! Then it’s off to P-town for a few days, and back to the hustle!