Natalie Andreou, living my dream in the west end

Singing profession? – Musical theatre actress and singer.

Current job? – Standby for Elphaba in London’s production of Wicked at The Apollo Victoria Thea-tre.

Past jobs? – Include working in a pharmacy, washing hair in a hairdressers and waiting tables in a burger restaurant. Living the dream!

Vocal range? – B2 to Ab6, Belt to F5

Age you realised you wanted to be a singer? – 16iSing0915_Inside

Vocal role model and why? – Celine Dion, her constant dedication to her craft is relentless.

What did you think after your first pro job? – That I was never doing an international tour ever again!

Name dropping – Panto with Warwick Davis and Priscilla Presley last year was pretty cool.

Shows you’ve been in? – Rock Of Ages, Mamma Mia!, Evita, Footloose, Fame.

Who are you listening to now and why? – No one in particular, but Jazz FM always.

Most memorable career moment to date? – Performing as Sherrie in Rock Of Ages.

Three things you can’t live without when you’re working? – A straw, Beurer nebuliser and my vocal coach Chris Johnson.

Where can we hear you? – At the Apollo Theatre, Victoria, London till September 2016

What drew you to musical theatre in the first place? My mum and dad introduced me to all the musical film greats… my favourite films as a kid were Oklahoma, Show Boat and Calamity Jane so musical theatre has always been a huge influence for me. Doris Day and Howard Keel are two huge loves of mine and always have been. I began dancing at a very young age and when I decided that performing was the career path that I wanted to follow, it seemed like a natural progression from the jazz dance training that I’d studied, alongside my love for the musicals that had inspired me as a child.

You’ve worked in the West End and on tour. Do you have a preference? How do they differ? Being on tour can be so much fun! It’s a fantastic opportunity to get to travel and gain experience in different theatres, whether that be in the UK or around the world. However, living, working and socialising with the same people for a whole year and not being able to be with friends and family back home can get really difficult. Working in the West End is such a blessing, being in the centre of theatreland for one thing, and then knowing you can always go home to your own bed is just the best feeling. So that’s definitely where I’d prefer to be.

MT singers need to be able to adapt their voices for different genres (legit, belt and contemporary). What challenges have you experienced in delivering these very different vocal styles? My voice leans towards a pop/rock quality; an agent is more likely to put you forward for jobs that suit your vocal style and quality and I suppose that’s reflected in the shows I’ve had the pleasure of working on. Although I was lucky enough to tour with Evita a few years back and that was a completely different ball game. Not a challenge necessarily but a lovely opportunity to not sing pop songs. Having said that, the biggest challenge I’ve faced would most certainly have been the past year as a Standby. I’ve developed some not particularly helpful vocal habits over the years, which I’ve had to iron out since I joined Wicked, and it’s still very much an ongoing process. Ultimately, it’s about getting through eight shows a week consistently, in a way that’s not going do any damage long term.

Why is it important to train formerly as a musical theatre performer? Not only would you receive excellent training in a variety of disciplines, which is usually taught by those who are currently working within the industry, but the contacts you make and doors that are opened up via these channels are invaluable. At the end of a three year course, whether it be diploma or degree, there’s usually a showcase in which agents are invited. This was how I landed my first agent, which leads to you being seen by the leading casting agents, that will ultimately get you the jobs that you want, whether that’s in town or on tour.

What do you think the important ingredients of a successful (i.e. employed!) MT performer are? I guess the obvious answer is to be the best that you can be in all fields – a triple threat. To be able to dance, sing and act essentially makes you more valuable to potential employers. Then throw some determination, dedication and a thick skin into the mix and you’re on to a winner! There also needs to be a willingness to adapt and take on notes and criticism. There will be the inevitable rejection that comes when you don’t land the auditions that you want, but it’s very much process of getting up, dusting yourself off and trying again for the next suitable role.

How do you keep fit for performance? Plenty of sleep, water and a healthy balanced diet and yes, the occasional Krispy Kreme. I’ve recently started HIIT training, and my lazy self completely underestimated how much it would help. After singing songs in the show like No Good Deed, which is marathon in itself, I run off stage and I can actually breathe for the first time since I started the job. An intense number in a show is like a sprint, so peak fitness is really beneficial for stamina.

You are currently working as the Standby for Elphaba in West End’s Wicked. What is the role of a standby? This means I play the role when Emma Hatton (who plays Elphaba) is for any reason indisposed or away on a statutory holiday.

How do you keep yourself prepared if you don’t know if you might have to do a last minute performance? And conversely how do you maintain the motivation if you have long periods between performances? I have regular singing lessons once or twice a week, and train daily for 20 minutes to keep my voice ready for any performances. As my scheduled dates are sometimes weeks apart, it makes for a good opportunity to have a goal for when I get to that set of perfor-mances. It’s a real blessing to be able to play the part, so when I’m in the theatre there’s always that buzz of ‘will it be today?’ so no motivation required! It keeps me on my toes.

What do you love about the role of Elphaba? Elphaba is a role that is relatable to so many people that come and watch the show. Wicked deals with topics such as bullying – something which everyone may go through at some point in their lives. Elphaba rises above those challenges and comes out bigger and better. That’s what I love about her – she is always true to herself. She doesn’t let opinions of others get her down.

What are the challenges of this role? The challenges for me personally would be to remain calm on the big notes. So much of the struggle is in your head, and once you’re over that barrier, it is just important to trust that the muscle memory will kick in. The dreaded ‘what if’ is NOT produc-tive!

What are the misconceptions you’ve encountered about being a MT performer? I suppose that it’s a glamorous lifestyle? The work is not always constant and the schedule can be gruelling at times. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What would you do if you weren’t performing? I’ve always taught dance when I’ve not been in a show, and it’s only within the last two years that I’ve wanted to get back into teaching, but this time, from a singing perspective. I’ve recently completed a singing teacher training course (BAST course) and am currently getting my piano skills up to scratch. I’ve been really slack at keeping up my vocal tuition throughout my career, and taken the jobs for granted as an opportunity to sing every day. What I’ve found is that since working on Wicked, I haven’t had a choice but to really knuckle down and get to grips with my technique. What it’s actually shown me is that there are no limits, your voice is constantly changing and there is always something to work on. So I’d like to share that journey with others too!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set off on your career track? Trust in the process. There will be times when there is no work and auditions just don’t go the way you want them to. My last year is the perfect example, I finished Rock Of Ages and had a very quiet 12 months. There were auditions but had I got certain jobs, then I wouldn’t have been around to audition for Wicked… and this has always been the goal.

Where would you like to be in the next five years? That’s such a hard question, if five years ago, you’d told me I’d be doing the job that I currently am, I don’t think I would’ve believed it. This job was and is for many the ultimate dream, so I feel extremely lucky to be where I am in my career currently.

What’s next for Natalie Andreou? Who knows… that’s the beauty of this job, you never ever know where it’s going to take you. I look forward to finding out!

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iSing founder Line, is passionate about creating a place where singers can gain knowledge, skills, advice and support. Something she wishes she had when she first started. In her private practice she helps pro and semipro singers, artists and voice teachers with their voice, performance, mindset and teacher training. Her speciality areas include Performing Arts Medicine, anatomy, health, technique and mindset. She pulls on a wide range of qualifications, experiences and interests to assist her clients to build and develop the knowledge and skills they require for their craft. She is a member of the BVA, PAVA, PAMA, is an MU she.grows.X mentor and Education Section committee member and Advisor to Vocology In Practice, and a BAST singing teacher trainer.