“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 email@example.com 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.
- Duncan Sheik plays second show at City Winery
- It’s official: Jennifer Damiano will play Mary Jane in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
- Broadway in Bryant Park ends with American Idiot and La Cage aux Folles
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Are you prac-ti-ca-lly per-fect? Did you catch Duncan Sheik’s concert at City Winery? Do you think he should continue with the covers or return fully to performing his solo work? Are you on board for Jennifer Damiano joining Spider-Man? Did you see the finale of Broadway in Bryant Park? Which week was your favorite this summer? Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
The weather didn’t get the memo that Broadway in Bryant Park still had one more week left in the season. It drizzled on the massive crowd that gathered for the free lunchtime concert’s final show of the summer. But judging from the crowd’s reactions to the buzzy shows that performed, they didn’t seem to mind the rain.
The Cagelles of La Cage aux Folles, this year’s Tony winner for Best Revival of a Musical, took the stage first. I wasn’t surprised that Kelsey Grammer didn’t participate in the event, but Douglass Hodge, the Tony winner for Best Actor, could have showed up to belt out “I Am What I Am.” Instead, their merry mass of transvestites entertained the crowd to exuberant applause. Not donning any feminine garb for “We Are What We Are” did come off a bit strange (“Look under our frocks,” what frocks?!), but their energy was through the roof, especially as they spiked extra large beach balls into the audience. The song began strangely though, as the announcer introduced the song as “What Are We Here For,” and then interrupted the already-in-progress number to give it the correct title. Dale Hensely and Chris Hoch went on as Albin and Georges, respectively, for “With You On My Arm,” which came off dull. The duo then joined the Cagelles for their closing act, “The Best of Times,” in which they paled in comparison to the effusive ensemble.
Video: “We Are What We Are”
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