By: Lauren Knight
Photo Courtesy of: Irvine Barclay Theater
Broadway actress Mandy Gonzalez returned to Irvine on Oct. 27 to bring “Mandy Gonzalez: From Stephen Schwartz to Lin-Manuel Miranda” to the Barclay Theater with “Hamilton” co-star, Javier Muñoz.
Gonzalez had previously performed at the Irvine Barclay Theater in March 2018, singing Broadway show tunes as well as songs from her album “Fearless.” For this year’s cabaret event, Gonzalez chose songs from award-winning lyricists and composers, Stephen Schwartz and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Performing in Schwartz’s “Wicked” and Miranda’s “In The Heights” and “Hamilton,” Gonzalez sang songs from previous roles as well as iconic ballads from both composers.
Gonzalez opened the show with a rendition of “Something’s Coming” from “West Side Story” before going into an anecdote about her upbringing; she described her Jewish and Puerto Rican household, joked about being “the only Gonzalez in Hebrew school,” and transitioned into a sweet tribute to her grandmother.
“My Grandma Marie is the reason I’m here onstage,” said Gonzalez. “She saw this love for music in me.”
As the piano accompaniment for “Que Sera Sera” began to play, she explained that this was the song her grandmother used to sing to her.
Gonzalez invited Muñoz to the stage, explaining that they began working on Broadway together for the first time in “In The Heights,” playing two of the leading roles. They then returned to the Richard Rodgers Theater in “Hamilton” to do the exact same thing. Gonzalez currently plays Angelica Schuyler, while Muñoz spent several years beside her in the titular role, Alexander Hamilton, before departing from the production.
With a nod to the show they both performed in, Gonzalez and Muñoz sang “Satisfied” from “Hamilton,” introducing Valencia High School student Olivia Meyers to sing for the role of Eliza Schuyler. Muñoz continued the “Hamilton” music by rapping “My Shot,” a moment that brought the most applause out of all the numbers in the night.
The Valencia High School Choir joined the duo onstage again as Gonzalez sang “Breathe” from “In The Heights,” a song about the pressures of going away to college as a first-generation student. With the choir singing harmonies at the climax of the song, the musical arrangement brought a new power to “Breathe,” with an entire choral program behind Gonzalez as she sang the lyrics, “I know that I’m letting you down.”
“I was smiling the whole time and when she turned back to sing to us, my smile just brightened,” said Valencia High School student Jalen Pipkins. Fellow student Khara Bigham continued by saying that “performing onstage with a Broadway actress was magical.”
Another moment that highlighted the unique musical arrangements in this event was when Muñoz sang “Corner of the Sky,” adding a Latin flair to a classic musical theater song.
“I wanted to find a language of something Latin that made sense for Javi and because he’s from Puerto Rico, it’s the idea of using real authentic salsa with clave and the whole nine yards,” said Gonzalez’s music director. “It connected with him on a visceral level.”
To round out the night, Gonzalez sang “Fearless,” a song that Miranda wrote for her album. The Valencia High School Choir joined her and Muñoz onstage for this moment, singing about the love between Gonzalez’s parents. In a tribute to the finale of “In The Heights,” the duo sang the closing song of the production before taking their final bows onstage.
In a wonderful return to the Irvine Barclay Theater, Mandy Gonzalez’s cabaret event was a true highlight in the Barclay’s Broadway Cabaret Series.