PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: West Side Story's Natalie Cortez

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: West Side Story's Natalie Cortez Natalie Cortez, currently starring as Anita in West Side Story at the Palace Theatre, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire with random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Natalie Cortez
Natalie Cortez

Cortez made her Broadway debut as Diana Morales in the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line. Other theatrical credits include Cinderella with Eartha Kitt, Mambo Kings, Fame on 42nd Street and Sidd.

Full given name: Natalie Marilyn Cortez. Now it's Natalie Rea Cortez. I changed my middle name to my husband's last name.
Hometown: New York, NY. Mount Sinai Hospital.
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Current audition song: Could I just sing from the score, please?
Skill you wish you had or were better at: Speaking Spanish and French.
First Broadway show you ever saw: Cats. And yes, I LOOOOOOVED IT!
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be? West Side Story, 1957
Current show you have been recommending to friends: Next to Normal
Three favorite musicals: Into the Woods, West Side Story, A Chorus Line
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: The Who's Tommy
Music that makes you cry, any genre: "Children Will Listen" from Into the Woods
PC or MAC: MAC
Most played song on your iPod: "The Rain Song" on Led Zeppelin's album "Houses of the Holy"
Last book you read: "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest"
Must-see TV shows: "Mad Men"
"Modern Family"
"Arrested Development" (sadly)
"The Wire" (also no longer on the air)
Last movie you saw: "Inception"
Some films you consider classics:

"An American in Paris"
"It's a Wonderful Life"
"All About Eve"
"Singin' in the Rain"
"West Side Story" The list is too long!

Performer you would drop everything to go see: I would die to see Meryl Streep as Mrs. Lovett. There, I'm putting it out in the universe.
Pop culture guilty pleasure: Reality TV. "Flavor of Love," "Rock of Love," "Wipe Out"
Favorite cities: Paris, New York, Florence
Favorite sport/team/player: Football, Pittsburgh Steelers, Troy Polamalu
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: First tape that I remember [was] Whitney Houston. Also A Chorus Line and West Side Story
First stage kiss: I was 14, playing Kim MacAfee in Bye Bye Birdie. Community theatre. It was really embarrassing.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager: Frederika Armfeldt in A Little Night Music
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living:

I'm not sure. It seeped in slowly until it was all I was doing without thinking twice about it. I do remember playing Frederika Armfeldt in community theatre when I was 12. I fell in love with the show. I knew every word and every lyric of the piece. When actors would forget their lines, I wouldn't say anything but I would always know the line they were supposed to say. I thought, "I can't wait until I'm older and I can sing those songs and say those amazing lines!"

How you got your Equity card: The national tour of Cinderella starring Eartha Kitt. It was total luck, really. It was [already] cast. Cinderella was Jamie-Lynn Sigler. However, [they needed a stunt double] for the magic trick where Cinderella changes into and out of the ball gown. So they held auditions for one more girl who could do an ensemble track and who looked like Jamie-Lynn. Et Voila! I got my Equity card.

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Ken Davenport was the general manager. He called me up to explain what the Equity minimum was. I remember saying, "Oh, I'm not Equity." He paused and finally said, "Well, you are now." I almost dropped the phone. I had no idea that it was an Equity Full Production Contract Tour. They don't have many of those anymore. Sad.

Favorite post-show meal: Marseilles. 44th and 9th.
Favorite liquid refreshment: Champagne
How do you unwind after a long day? ...Champagne!!!
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:

I don't know if it's the worst. But in A Chorus Line, I totally went up [on the lyrics] during "Nothing." I finished the line "...and I really didn't know where else to turn," and I forgot the lines completely. Forgot where I was. Like a deer in headlights. With the orchestra vamping for their next cue, I remembered I needed to say "Jesus Christ" in order to get to the next verse. I was supposed to tell a little story about Mr. Karp, but all that came out was, "and I thought to myself... Jesus Christ!"

Horrifying. Especially since I'm sure half the audience knew the song. Ugh.

Worst costume ever: A nude body stocking... that's all!
Worst job you ever had: Besides wearing the nude body stocking... waiting tables. Definitely waiting tables. I was the worst waitress EVER!
Who would play you in the movie? Hopefully I would! But some people think I look like Penelope Cruz. I don't know about that, though.
Star of the past you would most love to have sung or danced with: Gene Kelly
Cool celebrity guests you've met on the job: Chita Rivera
Memories from first night as Anita:

The first time I went on as Anita was a Wednesday matinee. I was understudying Karen Olivo and had literally just started the night before. My put-in rehearsal was supposed to be on Thursday. Oh well. I remember being on the set piece for the bridal shop scene. I'm sewing, waiting for Maria to come out and all I could think was, "I just gave birth three and a half months ago, I'm about ten pounds overweight and I'm back on a Broadway stage playing my dream role. I must be the luckiest woman alive!" It sounds cheesy, but it was amazing.

Leading lady role you've been dying to play: Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman
Leading man role you wish you could play Leading Player in Pippin
Career you'd have if you weren't a performer: Lawyer
Quality you admire most in a person: Kindness
"I'll never understand why…"

... people expect to get a good product without a good process. The creative process is completely under-appreciated when it comes to the longevity of a show. You want your cast to show up for work, you want them to care about a Wednesday matinee when their ankles are wrapped up and their arm is practically in a sling while they're singing on Prednisone. You need a cast that has a wonderful morale.

Work ethic is [important], but it means nothing without morale. Being in a Broadway show is wonderful, don't get me wrong. But we don't exactly come in to work and do our "jobs" the way normal people do. What we do requires more energy, concentration and genuine caring [than most].

Being supportive and appreciative [of a cast] will more likely get the best results, even if it takes a little longer.

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