The final performance of Bay Street Theater’s 2018 Music Mondays concert series, features none other than renowned Broadway star Mandy Gonzalez. Taking a night off from portraying Angelica Schuyler in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash musical Hamilton, she graces the Sag Harbor stage with Mandy Gonzalez: Fearless! on August 27 at 8 p.m.
A Los Angeles native, Gonzalez made her off-Broadway debut—and won her first Obie Award—in 2001, with Eli’s Comin’, a jukebox musical told through the music of Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Laura Nyro. She hit Broadway later that year as a standby for Idina Menzel in the Elton John-Tim Rice pop opera Aida. She then performed in Jim Steinman’s Dance of the Vampires, based on the Roman Polanski film The Fearless Vampire Killers, and Lennon, an experimental retelling of the famous Beatle’s life and music.
Gonzalez is best known for her compelling portrayal of Nina Rosario in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, both on and off-Broadway, which received a Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble. After two years in the musical, solidifying her status as the definitive Nina, she starred as Elphaba in Wicked, another role shared with Menzel. She’s also made several film and television appearances, including roles in Quantico, Madam Secretary, and After. Since September 2016 she’s been blowing audiences away eight shows a week in Hamilton, earning Miranda’s praise as “one of the greatest singers on Earth.”
An avid social media user, Gonzalez took notice of the constant negativity found online and knew that she couldn’t be the only person affected by it. In May 2017, she started the Twitter and Instagram movement #FearlessSquad to connect individuals who wanted to spread positivity online. She explains that unlike many internet message boards and social media platforms, “It’s not about shaming; it’s about having a conversation to better understand each other.” The group lives by four squad rules: we dream big; we embrace differences, we look for the good; and we help each other when we fall. Always looking to uplift others, she personally responds to messages by squad members to offer words of encouragement and lets them know how eager she is to meet them after her shows. “People put [celebrities] on a pedestal, but with social media, you can reach anybody,” she says. “I wanted to change the world through music, and now I can use my voice as a tool to help others.”
When approached by executive producers Sandy Jacobs and Lou D’Ambrosio to create her debut album, she realized, “I can’t tell people to be fearless and not be fearless myself.” She called up Hamilton producer Bill Sherman and other members of her close-knit work family to help her make the record knowing that “we never say ‘no,’ because there’s so much love [between us].” Lin-Manuel Miranda penned the title anthem “Fearless,” with lyrics derived from the love story of Gonzalez’s parents, who met as pen pals. The song describes her mother, a young Jewish woman living in California, writing encouraging letters to Vietnam soldiers, one of which was the Mexican-American migrant farmer who would soon return from the war and appear on her doorstep ready to sweep her off her feet.
Other songs on Fearless were composed by Zack Berkman, Jay Livingston, Jennifer Nettles, Tom Kitt and Ray Evans. In the Heights and Hamilton co-star Christopher Jackson lent his vocals to the powerful duet “Life Is Sweet.” A year later, in 2018, five more recorded tracks were released as Fearless: B-Sides.
New to Bay Street, Gonzalez is looking forward to getting personal with the Sag Harbor audience. While she loves performing on Broadway, she says, “There’s nothing like breaking that fourth wall…[My show] allows me to be myself and connect with my audience.” Expect to hear electrifying renditions of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” Doris Day’s “Que Será, Será” and “Breathe” from In the Heights. While singing “Fearless” and other select songs, she’ll be joined by a Fearless Female Choir made up of local kids and adults, a group she assembles in every town she performs in. More cabaret than concert, she’ll also “get to talk about all the crazy things that make me ‘me.’” Audience members should expect to laugh a lot, cry a little bit and leave the show feeling fearless.
Tickets to Mandy Gonzalez: Fearless! are $69–$125 and are available at baystreet.org and and through the Box Office at 631-725-9500.