“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
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What do you think, Rushers? Are you excited for the Rent revival? Do you think Michael Greif will make it very different from the original production? Do you want to see Michael Esper in another musical? Aren’t Steven Pasquale and Laura Benanti a sickeningly attractive, charming couple? Leave your envy, thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
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Well Rushers, what do you think of James’ Kander and Ebb switcheroo? Have you seen him in Scottsboro Boys? Do you feel the same way I do about Women on the Verge? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below! And don’t forget to follow Stage Rush on Facebook and Twitter for on-the-go news updates.
There’s a lot happening on stage at Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, but unfortunately, not enough of the right things. This new David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane musical is jam-packed with Broadway A-listers, but unfortunately, Broadway’s best actors don’t write. Which asks the question: why would the likes of Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Sherie Rene Scott sign on to a show with such poor writing?
Based on the 1988 Pedro Almodovar film of the same name, the story finds Pepa (Scott) dumped via answering machine by her lover Ivan (Mitchell). The message sends her into a “Why me??” rampage across Madrid, in which she meets Ivan’s wife, Lucia (LuPone), who is just as “Why me??”—only funnier. Pepa’s airhead of a pal (Laura Benanti) finds out she might be dating a terrorist and Lucia’s son’s fiancée (Nikka Graff Lanzarone) thinks her future husband might have separation issues with his mother, and before you know it, they’re all crying “Why me??”
Why this show? Why now? Why would Yazbek, Lane, and director Barlett Sher (of the fantastic South Pacific revival) unite this cast for such a paper-thin musical? Since the show is only scheduled to run till only the end of January, perhaps it’s because these actors figured this would be an easy showcase. And it is—no one in the cast breaks a sweat.
Scott gives a vacant performance as Pepa, unable even to make her character’s whininess authentic. Lanzarone gives off a “Why am I even here?” air to her performance. The fantastic de’Adre Aziza (Passing Strange) isn’t given anything to work with. (She understudies the role of Pepa, which I would be very keen on seeing.)
No one in Women on the Verge is given much character depth. That said, Patti LuPone makes a refreshing switch from her usual weighty roles and absolutely relishes in her eccentric Lucia. Whether she’s shamelessly ripping off a wig or standing in front of a Picasso painting and declaring how terrible she looks, LuPone is having a blast on stage, and thus gives the audience some of the evening’s few charms. Danny Burstein, hot off his last Sher collaboration with South Pacific, can once again be counted upon to bring the charm. His Taxi Driver doesn’t do much but spin Pepa around the stage in a crazy cab a few times, but each time is a welcome arrival. The real credit in the cast goes to Benanti, who is a riot as the model Candela. She’s a delightful twit with perfect timing, hilarious facial twists, and spot-on physical comedy. She delivers the best number of the show with “Model Behavior,” as she leaves a call-screening Pepa an innumerable amount of I-need-your-help voicemails. Read more
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Were you at Broadway on Broadway, Rushers? Did you love the concert, or were you left wanting more performances from new shows? What show opening this fall are you most excited for? Have you seen Imaginocean? Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments!
The problem with adding this subtitle to In the Next Room is that it doesn’t fit the tone of the piece. This jocular addition would better fit the style of a show like Avenue Q or [title of show]. This play by Sarah Ruhl has some jokes, yes; good ones, at that. But at its heart, it is a drama about a historical turning point in the sexual education of adults.
Michael Cerveris plays Dr. Givings, a physician who treats women (and sometimes men) with “hysteria” and anxiety with his “paroxysm” tool, which will in the future be referred to as a vibrator. His wife, played by Laura Benanti, is inquisitive about her husband’s medical treatments, which go on in the room adjacent to the couple’s living room (hence In the Next Room). But her husband is annoyingly rigid about what he divulges about his practices and thus shelters Mrs. Givings. Read more