Mandy Gonzalez: Fearless!

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Mandy Gonzalez


Café Carlyle, NYC, October 24, 2017

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Mandy Gonzalez
Photo: David Andrako

Bringing a mix of pop, R&B, soul, Latin, and classics, Mandy Gonzalez’s debut of Mandy Gonzalez: Fearless! at the Café Carlyle offered material from her new debut CD, Fearless! (released digitally last month, available as a hard-copy CD next month).With Lin-Manuel Miranda writing its title song, the CD was inspired by the idea of communities standing together for power and courage, inspiring dreamers. She attributes much of her own fearlessness to her parents. “I am here because they were fearless. They stood their ground and they were fearless.”

Gonzalez wrapped her show at the Café Carlyle around the concept of bravery in all parts of life, exploring her family, society, and her career. She took off two weeks from her role as Angelica Schuyler in Miranda’s Hamilton for this cabaret appearance, and she previously appeared in Wicked and Miranda’s In the Heights. In the spirit of courage, she performs “Breathe,” her signature song from In the Heights. She sings of belief and strength and “getting it right,” things songwriter Tom Kitt stressed in “Everyday.” Christopher Jackson, Gonzalez’s co-star from In the Heights and who now appears in Hamilton, joins her in the country earthiness of “Life Is Sweet” (Jennifer Nettles/Bill Sherman).

Adding jazz, Gonzalez delivers a stellar “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner), her voice floating over the driving beat. She follows that with a fiery Latin Billboard mega-hit for Marc Antony, “Vivir Mi Vida” (Khaled/Red One/Alex Papaconstantinou/Bilal Hijji/Bjorn Djupsom).

Directed with energy and focus by Eric Michael Gillett, Gonzalez’s show proves she is a skilled performer with trained vocals and well-grounded lyrics. From Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” to Joe Raposo’s “Bein’ Green,” she delves into the essence of the songs and links them to her life. Remembering her father, who instilled in her the love for music, she chose Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready,” which her father played. She dove into it with ebullience before bringing it to a gentler pace as she related how her parents (a Jewish valley girl and a Mexican migrant worker) met and fell in love and inspired her to overcome challenges.

Standing out as interesting takes on familiar songs are “Defying Gravity” (Stephen Schwartz) softened for the cabaret space, and brought the blues to “Que Sera, Sera” (Ray Evans/Jay Livingston). Accompanying Gonzalez in this ambitious songbook are Matt Beck on guitar, Richard Hammond on bass, Abe Fogle on drums, and musical director/pianist/vocalist John Deley, all delivering an intriguing professional debut.

Elizabeth Ahlfors

Born and raised in New York, Elizabeth graduated from NYU with a degree in Journalism. She has lived in various cities and countries and now is back in NYC. She has written magazine articles and published three books: A Housewife’s Guide to Women’s Liberation, Twelve American Women, and Heroines of ’76 (for children). A great love was always music and theater—in the audience, not performing. A Philadelphia correspondent for and InTheatre Magazine, she has reviewed theater and cabaret for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia City News. She writes for Cabaret Scenes and other cabaret/theater sites. She is a judge for Nightlife Awards and a voting member of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle.