20091125_223606.JPGShowbiz hopeful Natalie Woods would probably be the first to admit she is not the right shape to follow her mother into a career in ballet.
And until only a few weeks ago the bubbly 21-year-old was working as a children’s entertainer at a holiday camp in Camber Sands in Sussex.
Now she is the star of the Broadway musical Hairspray, being performed for the first time on a cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas. After weeks of rehearsal, and frustrating delays waiting for the ship’s theatre to be made ready, the show was premiered last night, and received a well-deserved standing ovation.
It’s the first time ever such a lavish full-length musical has been performed at sea, and it will be performed on the ship four times a week for the next four years. Starring alongside Natalie is another British actor and singer, Michael Quinn.
After the show, a breathless Natalie, who comes from Bordon in Hampshire, told me how she won the part of Tracey Turnblad ahead of 3,000 people who auditioned in London, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
“I went to auditions at Sadlers Wells in London in May and because there were so many people, they started off just by typecasting, and when I got through that and it was my turn to sing Good Morning Baltimore, the show’s opening number, my voice was really croaky.
“Luckily they asked me to come back two days later, but it was another month before I heard from them. It was the longest month of my life. First I got a call saying they were down to the last two Tracys, and then I got another call two days later and I thought they said ‘How’s the weather,’ because I told them what the weather was like and they said ‘We’re not asking you about the weather, we want to offer you the part.’ It was just amazing.”
Next day Natalie handed in her notice at the holiday camp – although she carried on working there for another month “because I needed the money.”
Then she was whisked off to Florida for four weeks of rehearsals before flying to the join the ship in Finland. It’s maiden voyage to the Caribbean sails next week.
quinn.jpgMichael, 27, and from Hither Green in south-east London, told me: “I had to read with about six different Tracys at the auditions, but Natalie and I hit it off straight away. My first work after leaving stage school was on the cruise ship Oceana, and I had no desire to go back on ships again, but this is so different.
“It’s a Broadway show and it’s on Oasis, it’s incredible. We feel so honoured to be here in the inaugural cast, who are amazing.
Michael, whose father was a captain in the Blues and Royals, appeared in the TV reality show Grease Is The Word, and went on to play in Joseph alongside Lee Mead. And as well as playing Link in Hairspray he has a part in the ship’s other big production show, Come Fly With Me, and does late-night swing sets in the Jazz Club.
Natalie is preparing to do regular “meet Tracy Turnblad” sessions for the children on board.
So it looks like they’re both going to be busy for the next six months in the Caribbean.