“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
The latest installment of the At This Performance concert series brought big laughs Sunday night. The concert that gives Broadway understudies and standbys the spotlight saw performers choosing hilarious song selections and telling stories of their careers that had the audience in stitches. Producing artistic director and host of the concert series Stephen DeAngelis noted the importance of understudies in theater, acknowledging their future star power. Speaking of what Broadway would be like without these actors, DeAngelis said, “They’d be dying Snooki green and putting a broom in her hand.”
The night kicked off with At This Performance’s youngest performer ever—11-year-old Logan Rowland from The Addams Family. He sang Pugsley’s solo “What If” with polish and confidence while his parents video taped and took pictures from the audience. Rowland told the story of his first time going on in the role—co-star Nathan Lane made an announcement to the audience during the show’s curtain call that they had just witnessed his Broadway debut. Rowland’s Addams co-stars Mo Brady and Lisa M. Karlin duetted with “Crazier Than You,” but didn’t live up to the chemistry displayed by Colin Cunliffe and Jessica Lea Patty when they sang the song last October.
Brady’s solo follow-up song was a song called “I Won’t Have To Anymore.” Easily the night’s most emotional performance, Brady sang the story of a young man preparing to flee the home of his verbally and physically abusive father. Showing great emotional depth and vocal range, Brady’s performance was among the night’s most memorable.
Video: The Addams Family‘s Mo Brady sings “I Won’t Have To Anymore”
(Using an iPhone or iPad? Watch on YouTube)
- Revisiting James T. Lane, currently a Scottsboro Boy
- Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown suffers the A-list cast curse
- Broadway grosses
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
- Broadway on Broadway concert lacks new material
- Stage Rush’s top 3 most-anticipated musicals of the fall
- Diving into John Tartaglia’s mind in Imaginocean
- Broadway grosses
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 new Broadway season swoops in with quite a homecoming when it takes over the area it inhabits. During the annual Broadway on Broadway concert, Broadway the art takes full control of Broadway the district. In its nineteenth year, the free outdoor concert in Times Square offered strong performances, many of theater’s biggest stars, and a lack of new offerings.
Sponsored by The Broadway League and billed as a kick-off to the new theater season, Broadway on Broadway should (and usually does) feature the new musical productions that will be bowing in the coming months. It’s an exciting sneak peak of shows that are opening in a few weeks, and some much further into the year. Last year, new productions like Finian’s Rainbow and Memphis were among those that debuted their songs and cast to the Times Square audience. This year, just two new musicals performed, out of the 10+ productions slated for Broadway this year.
Only one of those two productions, Elf, features original music. Beth Leavel was on hand to perform “There Is A Santa Claus,” which was pretty paint-by-numbers in melody, but embodied a strong seasonal flavor. Will Swenson (with newly cropped hair, much to the female audience’s audible disdain) performed “I Say A Little Prayer” from Priscilla Queen of the Desert—a jukebox musical. Not two of the strongest numbers of the day, but still exciting, being they were new.
Where was the cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, who is clearly ready to go? The Scottsboro Boys are still performing at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, so they get a pass on this event. But why couldn’t Reeve Carney represent Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark like he did on Good Morning America on Friday? Were the A-list stars of Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown above the free concert? Being that all these shows are set to open in the next two months, a one-song performance couldn’t have been too far out of their reach. Instead of performances, Sutton Foster, from the upcoming revival of Anything Goes (another production that didn’t perform—like she doesn’t know how to sing “Blow, Gabriel, Blow?) appeared on stage to read from the list of all these shows that are coming to Broadway and wouldn’t be performing. Some tease. Read more