“What was the name of that cheese that I like?” It’s the seventh voicemail Candela leaves for her MIA friend Pepa in the song “Model Behavior” in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. While Laura Benanti was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the role, this line (and her rendition of the whole song) highlighted understudy Jennifer Sanchez as an unsung comedic gem at a 2011 At This Performance concert. Sanchez went on twice for the part and still beams at the memory of it, calling it “the best time” she’s ever had on stage. Having made her Broadway debut in West Side Story in 2009, she’s now appearing in Ghost the Musical as an ensemble member and Rosa Santiago, the first client of the faux psychic Oda Mae Brown. Sanchez sat down with Stage Rush to discuss playing a 64 year old, the challenges faced by an understudy, and being a single mom on Broadway.
This is your third Broadway show. What’s it like to work on Broadway? Was this always the dream?
I didn’t see a Broadway show until I was in college. I had never been to New York. The first time I acted in a show was when I was 7 years old. It was a community theater production of Annie in New Mexico. I thought that was everything. I had so much fun. I got to wear lip gloss and hairspray. I thought my life was complete. That was the start of it all.
You are playing an old widow in Ghost. How did that happen?
Well, she’s 64. Her age isn’t specified in the script, but she’s 64. When I auditioned for Rosa Santiago, I honestly thought she was 27. I thought she was young, fun, and beautiful. When I auditioned, I wore my usual outfit—these huge earrings, bangles over my tight dance top, and heels. There was nothing in the script that said she’s older and has a cane. When the producers flew the cast to London to see the show, I saw her come out and I thought, ‘Well that must just be the London version.’ [laughs] I had seen the movie, but I didn’t think it’d be the same. I thought, ‘That’s just for London.’ We came back to New York and on the first day of rehearsals, they gave me my cane. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’
It seems that you prefer playing a character role rather than the pretty young woman that you are.
That’s the most fun for me, when I’m lucky enough to make people laugh. Read more
Arthur Laurents, librettist of West Side Story and Gypsy, and Broadway director died May 5 in his Manhattan home at age 93. He leaves behind a career legacy that changed musical theater forever, but more importantly, contributed to moments that will always live in theatergoers’ hearts. Stage Rush asked readers to submit their cherished memories connected with Laurents’ work and describe how his contribution to the arts affected them. Here is a collected tribute to Arthur Laurents from the people his work touched most—the audience.
If Arthur Laurents had written the libretto for just West Side Story or Gypsy, it would be a great accomplishment. The fact that he was the author of both forever cements his legacy in the world of American musical theatre. The closing performance of the 2003 revival of Gypsy remains one of the most important experiences of my life (for a variety of reasons), and has in many ways led to who I am and where I am this very day. For that, I am eternally grateful.
—Kevin Daly, Theatre Aficionado at Large
When I saw Gypsy in 2008, I truly understood for the first time that this show was an honest-to-God classic.
—Matt Orell, via Facebook
I met Arthur Laurents one time in New York City. I was 15 and I have been in love with his work since I saw West Side Story at age 7. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but he was having dinner with a few people when my aunt and I walked into the restaurant. Needless to say, I was really exited and my aunt thought I was crazy. I was determined to say hi, so after a while, I saw that his table was getting ready to leave, so I walked up to him, to my aunt’s dismay. I told him I loved his plays and his work on musicals most of all. He said he was surprised someone my age would like his stuff (he actually said “stuff”!). I was amazed, and before I could realize what I was saying, I asked if I could get a hug and a kiss, and he said yes! So I got a kiss and a hug from Arthur Laurents!
—Dante Velasco Read more
Arthur Laurents, librettist of West Side Story and Gypsy, and Broadway director died Thursday in his Manhattan home at age 93. He leaves behind a career legacy that changed musical theater forever, but more importantly, contributed to moments that will always live in theatergoers’ hearts. There will be many obituaries and tributes written about him by arts journalists and theater professionals, but Stage Rush is giving you the chance to write your own tribute to the Broadway legend, as a theatergoer.
Submit your own stories and memories of being impacted by Laurents’ work, whether it was in a theater watching one of his productions or listening to the music of his shows at home. What lines touch you the most? Make you laugh? Make you cry? Which of Laurents’ pieces inspires you the most?
Email your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11 p.m. Sunday, May 8, and it will be included in a collected tribute to Laurents on Stage Rush on May 9. Include your name as you want it to appear with your tribute, along with your city and state. For example, either format of “Jesse North, New York, NY”; “J. North, New York, NY”; or “Jesse N., New York, NY” will do.
For reference, here is the link to Arthur Laurents’ Internet Broadway Database page.