“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 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
Kym, my date, and I arrived at Radio City Music Hall at 6 p.m. We had butterflies in our stomachs and were laughing because it wasn’t like we were nominated or performing. As we lingered around the entrance at 6th Ave and 50th St, trying to figure out how to approach entering, Best Featured Actor in a Play nominee John Glover from Waiting For Godot passed by. We twiddled our thumbs for a few more minutes, waiting to cross paths with more arriving celebrities, but soon decided we better find the commoners entrance and start making our way in. The entrance line for regular ticket holders stretched nearly around the entire block. We waited in line and felt the discriminating eyes of the tourists parked on Rockefeller Center benches meandering over our outfits. As we crawled toward the security check, we saw Heidi Blickenstaff from [title of show], accompanied by Christopher J. Hanke. As we entered the venue, we realized that Heidi had to enter the same way we did—which we felt extremely bad about. The girl was not only in a Tony-nominated show, but she was also Ursula in The Little Mermaid! [title of show] just gets no respect (which we realized again during the ceremony). Read more
Accompanied by my fellow rushing pro friend, Kym, we headed over to the Booth Theatre in the early a.m. to rush Next to Normal. I will admit – I have gotten complacent while rushing. Chalk it up to too many successful and easy rushes, or maybe my rushing ego was getting in the way. But I made a misstep. We arrived at the Booth at 8 a.m. Some might say that’s early enough, but during the week of the Tonys, with Next to Normal being nominated for 11 awards, and it being something you and a friend have your hearts set on seeing – it’s not a good idea to get lazy. There were 18 people ahead of us. I knew we wouldn’t be able to get rush tickets. I did, however, think we were a cinch to get the $36.50-priced tickets that Normal offers (a fantastic deal, and a great backup option to rush). But believe it or not, the new musical that started out with tepid ticket sales is now boiling hot – the performance was sold out. The person in front of us snatched the last two rush seats and there were no other seats available. Read more