Natalie Toro is a Broadway and Television actress/singer who just released her newest CD, Just In Time For Christmas, featuring classic holiday favorites, new songs, and duets with Ryan Kelly and Grammy Award-winner, Jon Secada. Natalie will be celebrating this release with a concert at NYC's Birdland (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) on Sunday, December 8 at 6pm. Click here for tickets!
1. You just released your holiday CD Just In Time For Christmas. What made you want to record a holiday CD? It all started last Christmas when I was talking to the brother/sister team Andrew and Dawn Makay. They both LOVE Christmas, I mean like crazy Christmas and thought it was a good idea for me and my voice to live in this genre.
2. How did you decide which songs you wanted to record? Did I mention how much The Makay's Love Christmas? We were on a three-way call and everyone threw out their favorite song. This is where "JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS" got pitched from Dawn and Andrew. They were adamant on how I would sing the sha-poopi out of it. Mine was "Ave Maria/ O'Holy Night." I have always dreamed of making that arrangement work. I wanted big, huge, symphonic and to intertwine the two songs together somehow. With the help of my Arranger, Edward B Kessel, who arranged the Broadway show A Tale Of Two Cities, was the go-to guy for this mission. And we did just that!
3. On December 8, you will be having a holiday concert/CD release party at Birdland in NYC. What excites you about this upcoming concert/party and performing at Birdland? Well, the nerves are piling up with every minute that gets closer to the event. I keep reminding myself, it's a PARTY! Do what you do at parties and have fun. Many people get confused as to why I would have the stage gitters after all of my experience. But let me tell ya...that doesn't go away. It keeps me on my toes no doubt. Sorry, I got off of the question. Ha! What excites me that this will be the first time I am singing any of this stuff live. And Birdland is a venue I have always wanted to play. I have known the owner for a very long time and I've played other venues across the city, like Feinsteins. What I am most excited is that this will be the venue that I will remember forever because it's the venue that I will celebrate my very first Christmas CD.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after listening to your CD and attending the concert? First, I hope that they truly "feel" the love that was put into this project. And by feeling that love what will come second is how good it really is. I am not tooting my own horn here. I have been around long enough to know if something is good or bad. Even if I did it. And no one judges me more that I do myself. It's just that I am SO amazed at how all of it was put together. I just kept looking up at the sky and shaking my head. I never questioned the Universe. I was like, "okay," Let's go DO THIS! What I think people are starting to feel is the frequency of the music as a whole. I am getting emails every day about how people can't stop listening to it. I won't deny that that is exactly how I feel. I can listen to it over and over again.
5. What was the best part about working with Ryan Kelly and Jon Secada? I can say, "talent." They have such different styles. I will admit that I was a bit nervous working with both of them. My main concern was if we were going to blend vocally. But we all did what we do best, sing! And the magic happened. What was amazing with Jon was that he just wanted to "knock it out" in the studio and me being a Professional Stage Actress, I am used to a little rehearsal. But who was I to question him? I was like, "okay, we will work it out." And viola!
Natalie Toro and Ryan Kelly: "Baby It's Cold Outside" Official Music Video
6. What's your favorite part of the creative process in putting a CD together? Talking to the arrangers and trying to get your vision across what has been swirling in your brain for a while. I look at things like a movie. If it has a beginning. middle and an end, then it will work. Both of my Producers work the same way. The BEST part is when I start to get some samples of their creations. If my little hairs on my arms stand up, then I know we are going in the right direction.
7. Since this is a holiday CD, what are some of your favorite holiday traditions? I like getting out the ornaments from storage, putting on some Christmas music, lighting a candle that has that scent of pine, and decorating. Usually, I dress in red and put on a Santa hat. I pretend I have a lit fireplace. Don't have one of those in The Bronx!
8. What do you love most about NYC during the holiday season? Well, I used to LOVE the way the city decorated for The Holidays. I feel like in the last few years, there are less and less decorations or anything Holiday even in December! That is sad for me. NYC gets a bad rap for mean people. But I think the pace of the city gets even more frenzied during The Holidays. Then on Christmas Day, there's the AH moment and everything is relaxed. You can actually feel the crisp air breathe.
9. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I have always been a "dramatic child." My family had all sorts of nick-names for me. I guess it didn't help that I performed at the Apollo Theater in Harlem for Amateur Night at five years old. I sang Streisand to my hair bush in front of a mirror all the time. I just had to hold that last note in "Evergreen" as long as she did. I cannot say there is one thing that inspired me. I didn't choose it. It chose me.
10. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Oh gosh, there are many. But if I had to pick...hmm...a few top of the A list actors for me are Kevin Spacey, Meryl Streep, and Glenn Close. You never know where your next project can take you. I would love to be in a feature film next. And I always dream BIG! I could sing with Lara Fabian.
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? The same advice I give to everyone, "Always be pleasant and professional to work with, even if you don't like where you are. You never know if that person you hated and disrespected will be the next big Director of the show or film you are auditioning for."
12. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? That thank God I am really pleasant and professional in real life. I don't have to pretend. I have also learned that I am an open book and sometimes, you have to learn to close the page to protect yourself. I am REALLY sensitive. Doesn't help that I am a Pisces either. Can you say, mush? I struggle with the difference between compassion and idiot compassion and have learned to decipher the two.
13. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Oh, great question! I would absolutely have magic to manifest whatever needs to be done. But I would only use it for good.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, Natalie made her stage debut at the age of five at the legendary Apollo Theatre during their "Amateur Night." After studying at The Manhattan School of Music she received her BFA in Musical Theatre from the Boston Conservatory of Music. It wasn’t long after graduating that the professional theatre world took notice of her unique talent.
Natalie was the first American to play the role of "Eponine" in Les Miserables on Broadway, for which she played for over three consecutive years. She also received accolades and critical acclaim for her portrayal of "Madame Defarge" in A Tale of Two Cities on Broadway. (She also filmed a concert version of this musical for PBS.) Other New York credits include originating the role of "Sally" in Alan Menken’s A Christmas Carol at the Paramount Theatre. Just some of her National Tour and theatrical credits include playing "Grizabella" in Cats, "Mary Magdalene" in Jesus Christ Superstar and, "Camila" in the Tony winning musical, In The Heights. Her acclaimed portrayal of "Eva Peron" in the 20th Anniversary Tour of Evita earned her a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination.
Television audiences might also recognize Natalie from her guest appearances on such shows as Elementary, Person of Interest, Law and Order, and Law and Order SVU. Natalie charmed audiences while performing with Symphony Orchestras across the country and graced the stage at Carnegie Hall and The National Concert Hall in Dublin.
With the help of her Producer, Dawn Makay, they produced her self-titled CD, a tribute to Broadway where she sang a duet with two-time Tony Award winner, Sutton Foster. Toro’s first album, Bailando en la Luz (Broadway Salsa Fusion), was the last to be recorded at the famous Power Station Recording Studios before it closed its doors. Natalie’s other recordings include the original cast recordings of Zombie Prom and A Christmas Carol; a dance single of "Rainy Days and Mondays" for BetBoys; and a compilation CD with other Latin artists called, Latin Broadway, among others.