“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