Month: March 2018

Review: Mandy Gonzalez: Fearless

Mandy Gonzalez_header

By Cassie Schauer, Guest Blogger

Who needs to fight for Hamilton tickets when Mandy Gonzalez is in town?  Currently starring as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton on Broadway, singer Mandy Gonzalez chose Lone Tree for the closing night of her week-long tour to promote her debut CD, Fearless. In her words, this CD and tour are a “dream come true.”

I have never heard her sing live, so I was immediately blown away with the power of her jazzy voice. She opened with the classic “On a Clear Day” sung with a sultry Latin beat. Her voice is huge — I imagine it could be heard from the parking lot.  Mandy created an intimate connection with the sold-out audience throughout the performance, waving to the people in the balcony and sharing her connection to each of the songs she chose to perform for us. By the end of the evening, I felt I had been listening to someone whose career I had been following for years.  She was so excited and genuine and having so much fun.

She added a personal twist to each song she performed and referred to several as being “from her first album.”  Her rendition of “I Only Have Eyes For You…and you…and you…and you…” was performed with a playful Latin beat.

As an original cast member of  Lin-Manual Miranda’s In the Heights, “Breathe” is arguably the first song that Mandy is known for.  She told us how returning to the Richard Rodgers Theater for Hamilton brought back such good memories, as if she’d never said goodbye to the theater.  “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard paid tribute to that time in her life.

Mandy sang “Get Ready Cuz Here I Come” in honor of her father’s singing career. It was the first song she remembers hearing him sing. She followed with “Born to Run,” an ode to her husband’s New Jersey roots.  Next was “Life is Sweet,” which she performed on her CD with original Hamilton cast member and her In the Heights co-star, Christopher Jackson.

She then told us the tale of “the Green Girl,” Elphaba from Wicked: the 20 pound dress, the raked stage. Would she ever do it again? No, she said, the green doesn’t come off!  She followed with a tongue-in-cheek rendition of  “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” before singing the powerful “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.

The Fearless CD tour began in Florida. Performing so soon after the shooting in Parkland, Mandy decided that she wanted to honor and celebrate every city she performed in by inviting a community choir to sing with her. For tonight’s show, Mandy was joined by a group from Denver’s award-winning Phamaly Theater Company, comprised of performers with diverse disabilities of every nature. “Starts Right Now” is a powerful ballad about the ups and downs in life, about being fearless, and about having the courage to let go.  The result was strong and positive, the performers clearly enjoying their time to perform together.

Finally, Mandy performed the title song from Fearless, written for her by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It was inspired by the story of how her mother and father overcame huge personal obstacles and found the courage to stand up for forbidden love. She ended the performance with a very passionate rendition of “Que Sera Sera,” her grandmother’s favorite and her best advice.

Mandy was backed by a talented group of musicians. Seeming like old friends who had been playing together for years, they provided a rich and energetic compliment to her voice.  Lead by pianist and musical director, John Deley, the band included Richard Hammond on bass, Abe Fogel on drums, and Oscar Rodriguez on guitar.

There is something different about a Broadway singer performing on her own. A different vibe. Different connection with the audience. Mandy seemed somewhat in awe of her position now as a solo artist. She was having a blast and so were we.

Getting to know…Jay Reeves

jay reeves theatName: Jay Reeves

Role: Cory

Hometown: Newark, New Jersey

What about Fences speaks to you as an artist?: Fences speaks to me in many different ways. The everyday love dynamic of a family rocks my soul.

What’s your biggest challenge when taking on this role?: Not listening to my Pops when he’s talking. Troy Maxson is a tough man.

Favorite role (that you’ve played or that you want to play?): I’d hope to one day play Spiderman or Static Shock. I’d save the world as we know it today.

When you have a five minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?: Easy one haha! I spend my time doing football tricks and tossing the pigskin.


Come and see Jay and the rest of our cast in August Wilson’s Fences, from April 5 – 21, with a preview night on April 4. Click here to buy tickets. 

Getting to know…Nylah Langford

Nylah's PhotoName: Nylah Langford

Role: Raynell

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

What about Fences speaks to you as an artist?
I think Fences is a really great play.  It’s nice to learn about how the 1950s were – times were really different back then.  I am able to feel the emotion of that time period and put that emotion back into acting out each scene.

What’s your biggest challenge when taking on this role?
My biggest challenge with this role would have to be playing a role of a younger girl.

Favorite role (that you’ve played or that you want to play)?
My favorite role that I’ve played would have to be the Director in The Final Dress Rehearsal. A role that I would like to play would be Little Inez in Hairspray.

When you have a five-minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing? Hanging out with the cast, eating (mostly something sweet), and going over my lines.


Come and see Nylah and the rest of our cast in August Wilson’s Fences, from April 5 – 21, with a preview night on April 4. Click here to buy tickets. 

Getting to know…Julanne Chidi Hill

JCHName: Julanne Chidi Hill

Role: Rose

Hometown: Born in Los Angeles, CA and raised in Altadena, CA

Bonus Fact! Julanne and Leonard Earl Howze go way back – they went to high school together in L.A. and college in New York!

What about Fences speaks to you as an artist? A few things that come to mind are the social relevance of the play and the language. The rhythm and motion in the words. He has created these beautifully flawed characters with cultural specificity.

What’s your biggest challenge when taking on this role?  Perhaps the biggest challenge is honoring the role to the fullest extent, in a way that will help inform and clarify others perception of Rose and the choices she makes.

Favorite role (that you’ve played or that you want to play?): I am currently playing Rose in August Wilson’s Fences…and right now, she’s my favorite!!

When you have a five minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing? I usually take that time to regroup, have a sip of coffee and I try to step outside for a sec to breathe in the fresh air of Colorado.


Come and see Julanne and the rest of our cast in August Wilson’s Fences, from April 5 – 21, with a preview night on April 4. Click here to buy tickets. 

Getting to know…Leonard Earl Howze

howze01Name: Leonard Earl Howze

Role: Bono

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

What about Fences speaks to you as an artist?: The way August Wilson writes the relationships in Fences is poignant, gripping, and truthful. Yes, he’s writing about the black experience. Yet he’s also writing about the human experience. When you listen to those voices, they speak to the heart.

What’s your biggest challenge when taking on this role?: A challenge in playing the role of Bono is one similar to reality. Where we’re put in difficult situations to shine a light and deliver the hard truth on the wrong doings of close friends, in an effort to get them back on track.

Favorite role (that you’ve played or that you want to play)?: I must say, every role that I’ve had the honor of doing means something special to me. They have all contributed and played a significant part in the journey of my career.

When you have a five-minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?: My 5 min break is a time to get a breather from the intensity of the work. Also, with being new to this Colorado altitude, it’s time to pee. lol – no but seriously.


Come and see Leonard and the rest of our cast in August Wilson’s Fences, from April 5 – 21, with a preview night on April 4. Click here to buy tickets. 

Getting to know…Darryl Alan Reed

Darryl Alan Reed 2Name: Darryl Alan Reed

Role: Gabriel

Hometown: Chicago, IL

What about Fences speaks to you as an artist?: What speaks to me as an artist regarding Fences is the identification of fatherhood and the role of baseball in my life. My father played, I played (even had the opportunity to try out for the Chicago Cubs!). In addition, my baseball idol, Roberto Clemente, is mentioned significantly and singularly within the play.

What’s your biggest challenge when taking on this role?: A particular challenge for me is making sure Gabriel is not a caricature.

Favorite role (that you’ve played or that you want to play)?: My favorite role(s) are Gabriel and Stool-Pigeon (from King Hedley II), which I was so far able to understudy and help prepare for, but not actually perform for a paid audience.

When you have a five minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?: During break I check messages and use the bathroom, due to my increased water intake while here in Colorado!


Come and see Darryl and the rest of our cast in August Wilson’s Fences, from April 5 – 21, with a preview night on April 4. Click here to buy tickets. 

Getting to know…Bradford Barnes

Bradford BarnesName: Bradford Barnes

Role: Lyons

Hometown: Oakland, California

What about Fences speaks to you as an artist?: The retelling and exploration of a black family in the 1950’s and how that era helped reflect each characters’ individual points of view.

What’s your biggest challenge when taking on this role?: My biggest challenge was not holding my character up to my personal standards in life. Like an onion, I want to continue peeling away layers in order to find the truth and essence of Lyons, not only as a musician but also as a young man.

Favorite role (that you’ve played or that you want to play?): A favorite role I’d love to play is Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello.

When you have a five minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?: On a five (or ten) minute break, I usually put on my headphones and find a nice secluded place to dance. Most of the time I’m pop locking and gliding to old school music. It’s very relaxing and I return to rehearsal feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

 


Come and see Bradford and the rest of our cast in August Wilson’s Fences, from April 5 – 21, with a preview night on April 4. Click here to buy tickets. 

Getting to know…Esau Pritchett

Esau_PritchettName: Esau Pritchett

Role: Troy Maxson

Home: Saginaw, MI

What about Fences speaks to you as an artist?: Fences speaks to me because it addresses the convention of the fall of the tragic hero,  but in the guise of a more contemporary working class black man in America.

What’s your biggest challenge when taking on this role?: My biggest challenge is being careful not to judge my character Troy – allowing for a greater and more truthful exploration of the character as written by August Wilson and not sanitized through my own contemporary and judgmental filter.

Favorite role (that you’ve played or that you want to play?): My favorite role is always the role I’m currently working on. Therefore, Troy is my favorite role.

When you have a five minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?: I drink lots of coffee.


Come and see Esau and the rest of our cast in August Wilson’s Fences, from April 5 – 21, with a preview night on April 4. Click here to buy tickets.