We asked Mandy Gonzalez a few questions about her career and passion for performing in anticipation of her Caramoor debut on May 5, 2018. She mentions her Bubbie right from the start and shares insights on who she hopes to inspire, the community she hopes to grow, and the songs and roles she hopes to play next.
Cabaret in the Music Room celebrates the works of The Great American Songbook. Is there a piece from this classic repertoire that you feel particularly connected to or are especially excited to perform?
Yes! Many of the songs of The Great American Songbook are songs that I learned from my Bubbie growing up. She instilled in me a love for the great torch singers and even now most of my shows end with a song she would sing to me often, “Que Sera Sera.”
Who — or what — along your journey to Broadway inspired you to pursue the arts? When did you know being a performer was the path you wanted to take?
I attended the Broadway Theater Project at age 15, on full scholarship, and worked with directors like Ann Reinking, Jeff Calhoun, Treat Williams, and Gregory Hines, and I witnessed the caliber of talent that I hadn’t seen before. It inspired me to pursue a career in the arts; for the first time I saw the possibilities ahead of me, and I went after it.
You recently released an album titled, Fearless, and have started a #FearlessSquad movement promoting online positivity. Why do you think this message resonates so strongly today and what inspired you to spread this message?
For me, and many of the people that I work with and encounter on a daily basis, social media is overwhelming. I’ve witnessed how isolating it can be, and I wanted to create a space that was safe and inclusive for everyone, where people uplifted each other, and encouraged each other in their pursuits. A lot of people are looking for a place to belong, and the #FearlessSquad meets that need, and has connected me with so many people around the world, it’s gone beyond my greatest hope, and I appreciate them so much.
You originated the role of Nina Rosario in In the Heights and stepped into the roles of Elphaba in Wicked and Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton. All three are aspirational and independent women. What drew you to these characters? Do you have any dream Broadway roles?
In the Heights was the first opportunity for me to portray someone who looked like me, and who was very much like me, and the other two roles gave me the opportunity to expand on that. I would love to continue to portray women in roles that challenge and inspire me. We’re so fortunate that these roles have been created, and I feel incredibly lucky to inhabit their shoes and portray these characters for girls to look up to. Evita comes to mind as another example of a strong woman in leadership. Those are the roles I look for.
Do performances outside of New York City feel different?
It feels wonderful to be able to connect with fans, and Fearless Squad members, who I’ve interacted with online, and I get to meet face-to-face. Broadway can feel very insular, but performing outside of the city gives me a new perspective, and a chance to connect with people on their turf.
How do you de-stress pre- or post-performance?
When I’m not performing, my time is really about my daughter, my husband, and our new puppy, Oscar. School drop-off and after school time with my daughter keeps my focus grounded, and helps me transition in and out of my performance mindset.
If you hadn’t ended up a performer, what do you think you would be doing now?
My other major passion, aside from music and performing, is children. I think that had I not pursued this path I may have likely become a pediatrician or something very similar!
Caramoor thanks The Adela and Lawrence Elow Fund for The Great American Songbook: 1900 to 1960 for preserving and sustaining classic American songs through live performances.