Cabaret and Jazz Vocalist Natalie Douglas Performs at the Orinda Theatre

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(Bill Westmoreland, Photographer)
Renowned jazz vocalist, Natalie Douglas, performs her show titled, Four Women: Nina, Lena, Abbey & Billie, which is a tribute to legends Nina Simone, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln and Billie Holiday, April 3 at 5 p.m. at the Orinda Theatre, located at 2 Orinda Theater Square.

    When the pandemic hit in 2020, Michael Williams and Derek Zemrak of the Orinda Theatre had to make the difficult but necessary decision to postpone their world-renowned cabaret and jazz singer Natalie Douglas – a show that would kick off the Live At the Orinda concert series.
    The good news is she’s back, and her show is set for April 3 at 5 p.m. at the Orinda Theatre, located at 2 Orinda Theater Square.
    Douglas will perform her show titled, Four Women: Nina, Lena, Abbey & Billie, which is a tribute to legends Nina Simone, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln and Billie Holiday. Douglas, who has lived in New York for the last 30 years, is married to actor and personal fitness concierge, Billy Joe Young. Together, they raise Moses, their cat.
    For Douglas, her life in the spotlight began when she was young.
    “I started singing when I was a little kid,” said Douglas. “My mom taught me to sing in the kitchen when I was four. I’ve been singing my whole life. I just fell in love with it.”
    As an only child with a lot of time on her own, Douglas immersed herself in books, songs and music.
    A discovery was made when she began listening to vinyl records.
    “My parents had a great record collection,” she said. “And once I realized that you can listen to a song and go learn it, it just started for me. I was like, ‘oh, that’s who I am’ and ‘that’s what I do! I’m a singer.’ It was almost before I knew what all those words meant.”
    In high school, Douglas performed in chorus and madrigals, in her school plays and musicals, “but it wasn’t necessarily something I thought about pursuing as a career,” she said.
    Graduating high school at age 16, Douglas found herself at grad school by age 19. She worked on the campus newspaper at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she received her master’s degree in psychology and certificates in theater and Women’s Studies.
    It’s where her friends got a taste of her singing at a café.
    They encouraged her to continue, but Douglas was doubtful about their praise, since she figured these were her friends. Of course, they’re going to be kind.
    That’s when she took the next step and began singing to strangers – audience members who didn’t know her – at clubs, bars and steakhouse restaurants. She began hitting open mic clubs, and when a couple of her UCLA friends moved to New York, she went to visit them.
    Falling in love with New York, she stayed after singing in a club one night. A waitress came over to her and said, “Danny wants to see you.”
    “Danny Brack was the manager at the time; he later became a dear friend,” said Douglas. “He said ‘you want a job?’ I said, ‘oh no, I don’t live here.’ He said, ‘move here!’ It took me about a year, but I moved to New York.”
    The rest is history. Since then, Douglas has won 12 MAC Awards (Manhattan Association of Cabarets) and has brought audiences to their feet at stages from Carnegie Hall and Birdland Jazz Club to concert halls in the UK, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Monaco, Argentina and beyond.
    The daughter of the Reverend Arnold Townsend, a story in and of itself she will share at her show, Douglas is also a well-sought educator who works worldwide with singers of all ages as a master teacher for the Mabel Mercer Foundation. Douglas also specializes in presenting diversity workshops and master classes in public and private schools.
    She’s excited to perform at the Orinda Theatre. “It’s such a gorgeous space,” she said. “So welcoming, warm and lovely!”
    For tickets and more information, visit www.orindamovies.com.

Charleen Earley can be reached at editor@theorindanews.com.

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