July 6 – New York
I fell in love with Natascia Diaz at the Kennedy Center’s 2001 Sondheim Festival, when she played the role of Petra in A Little Night Music, and stole the audience’s hearts with her gorgeous rendition of “The Miller’s Son”. Since then, I have followed her career closely, and have seen her in the Broadway productions of Man of La Mancha, Capeman and Seussical.
Off-Broadway, I saw Natascia in the Zipper Theatre’s production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris three times My copy of that cast CD is one of my most cherished possessions. And who could forget Natascia’s performance as Rosalie in The Kennedy Center’s recent gorgeous production of Carnival?
So, when MetroStage’s Artistic Director Carolyn Griffith called me a few months ago to tell me Natascia was going to recreate her 2005 NYMF (New York Music Festival) performance as Monica in Rooms at MetroStage, that Doug Kreeger, who I had seen in last year’s revival of Les Miserables on Broadway as Jean Pouvaire, and recently in the glorious production of The Visit at Signature Theatre, where he played Evgen, was going to play Ian, and that Scott Schwartz was going to direct the show again, this musical theatre crazy was ecstatic.
So when Carolyn called me last Friday and asked if I would like to pop in to watch a few minutes of a rehearsal when I was in NYC for the July 4th weekend, I immediately said, “Yes!”
Walking into Theatre Works USA on West 26th Street, I thought I was watching the opening of 42nd Street. A swarm of tap dancers, in town for the Tap City 2008 convention that weekend, were tap-tap-tapping away in some rehearsal rooms. I felt so light-footed, I just wanted to get in line and tap away with them.
As I entered the space about 20 minutes earlier than my invite, (I was so excited I just couldn’t help myself), I was once again lured into the web of The Spider Woman herself, Ms. Diaz.
What is Rooms about?
According to the Geva Theatre Center’s website: “Monica is a self-described Scottish-Jewish princess has dreams of musical stardom and talent to match. Ian is a hard-drinking Catholic rock-n-roller. They meet, sparks fly and what begins as a partnership leads to passion as they travel the road to success from Glasgow to London to New York. But when they blow their big break at CBGB’s in New York, their careers and their love are both on the line.”
What did I see and hear?
I heard two glorious voices filling a rehearsal room with sheer beauty and emotion with musical director Jesse Vargas tickling the ivories for them. I watched director Scott Schwartz, husband and wife co-book writers Miriam Gordon and Paul Scott Goodman, (who also wrote the music and lyrics), stage manager Jessica Winfield and assistant stage manager Danielle Hutchinson, producer Van Dean and Paul Cozby – all beam while their two stars, Natascia Diaz and Doug Kreeger rehearsed three songs from Rooms.
The first song – “Bring the Future Faster,” – introduced me to Monica, who yearns for a better tomorrow. Natascia, wearing a red shirt that said, “Desi! Red” on it, performed the song with gusto, intense yearning and optimism. “The next thing is the best thing!” I almost shouted, “Go Girl!”, but I behaved myself.
Next, I was introduced to Ian when Doug performed “Clean,” where Ian comes clean about being an alcoholic and the ups and down of staying on and off the wagon. The lyrics, “I would sell my mother for a whiskey sour” still lingers in my mind, and I don’t drink. Now, that’s powerful.
And, what a way to end this wonderful introduction to Paul Scott Goodman’s (Bright Lights Big City) raw and honest score, than to hear Natascia and Doug’s gorgeous voices blending harmoniously as they sang “All I Want Is Everything,” celebrating Monica and Ian’s success on being on top of the punk rock world, as their first hit climbs up the charts to “Number 1.”
It was an exciting hour watching teamwork at its best, and experiencing the yearning and dedication of a director, two actors and producers, a musician, a composer/lyricist and co-book writers and stage managers striving to make a show they believe in come alive in that rehearsal room, and enjoying every moment of it.
So, DC theatre-goers, this summer is turning into a busy one but make room for Rooms as these two fantastic performers and this talented company embarks on their next adventure at MetroStage. The show runs from July 25th thru September 7th. Get tickets on the Metrostage website or call (703) 548-9044.
Natascia Diaz and Paul Scott Goodman perform at Signature Theatre’s Sizzlin’ Summer Nights Cabaret Series on Wednesdays, July 23rd and July 30th at 8:30 PM in the ARK Theatre. Tickets are $15 and are available on Signature’s website.