Mandy Gonzalez is #Fearless!
Photography By Brian Burkhardt
Written By Carrie Edelstein
Not even some thunderstorms could stop Hamilton's Mandy Gonzalez from taking her one night off from Broadway to travel to St. Louis for a concert to benefit december MAGAZINE. Monday night's show opened with december's editor, Gianna Jacobson, auctioning off two tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway, roundtrip airfare to New York included. And then Gonzalez, who plays Angelica Schuyler, began with her show-stopping performance.
Gonzalez opened with "Raise the Roof" from The Wild Party, and then told the audience it was just her second time to St. Louis. She thanked John and Sally Van Doren for her introduction to toasted ravioli earlier in the afternoon. She also mentioned cast members from the touring production of Hamilton, now on stage at The Fabulous Fox Theatre, were spending their night off among the audience at The Sheldon.
She then continued with Bette Midler's cover "In These Shoes," mentioning how it was Midler who brought her to St. Louis first as a back up singer. The third song of the evening was "Everyday," an original tune written for Gonzalez by Tom Kitt, who is famous for Next to Normal, SpongeBob SquarePants The Musical and also NBC's "Rise."
Without so much as a sip of water, Gonzalez carried on with her bright smile right into "Breathe" from In the Heights. She is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Nina Rosario in the Lin-Manuel Miranda production. Gonzalez said the two became very close, so after more than a decade of friendship and another role in a Miranda production (Hamilton), Gonzalez called upon Miranda to write the title song for her debut solo album.
"You know he's like the busiest man in the world, so it took a lot of courage to make that call," Gonzalez said. "And he was like, 'Yeah, I'm going to write an anthem for your fearless squad!'" That "squad" is a hashtag social media movement, #FearlessSquad, Gonzalez created to help unite anyone who has ever faced the fear of living out dreams by empowering and inspiring them to live their best lives.
One of the many highlights of the evening was the fifth song in the set, "As If We Never Said Goodbye," from the musical, Sunset Boulevard. It was last seen on Broadway during a brief revival performance run starring Glenn Close last year.
Gonzalez then told a story about her childhood, mentioning how the first time she heard her father sing, he belted out "Get Ready," by The Temptations. After singing her own rendition, Gonzalez sang another tribute song, only this time to who she says is her "own boss," husband Douglas Melini, an Italian artist from New Jersey. She honored him with a slowed-down but memorable version of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run."
Next up was "Life is Sweet" from the "Fearless" album, a song written by Bill Sherman and former Sugarland lead Jennifer Nettles. Gonzalez then told how she "never" wanted to play Elphaba again from Wicked, a role that won her an award for Best Replacement. After telling stories about the role "which requires a 10-pound dress, a 20-pound broom and a face full of green make up that just doesn't come completely off," she said, "But in concert, I'm all about it." She sang "It's Not Easy Being Green" before launching into the highly anticipated performance of "Defying Gravity."
The concert came to a close with "Fearless," the title song to her debut album, followed by an encore that included "Que Será, Será," a song Gonzalez says her grandmother, who was a St. Louis native, used to sing to her.
About december magazine:
december is a twice-a-year nationally recognized literary publication — every issue filled with short fiction, essays, poems, and visual art — with a distinguished legacy of publishing the earliest work of little-known writers and artists. Many of them became major literary figures, including Marvin Bell, Stephen Berg, Rita Mae Brown, Raymond Carver, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Philip Levine, Joyce Carol Oates, and Marge Piercy. december is dedicated to championing the work of unheralded writers and artists, celebrating fresh concepts from seasoned voices, and advocating for its contributors in the literary, artistic, and general communities. Founded in Iowa City in 1958, december moved to Chicago in 1962, ceased publication in 1981, and was revived in St. Louis in 2013 to widespread acclaim.
ABOUT december’s WRITERS AND ARTISTS COMPENSATION FUND
Most literary magazines pay their contributors in copies of the issue in which their work appears. Not december. We pay our contributors in cash and contributor copies. We are constantly advocating for our contributors by nominating their work for prizes and awards, spreading word about their readings and other publications on our website and social media. Not only that, we respond to each and every submission personally and within six weeks, providing detailed feedback and commentary on work that shows promise. december’s hands-on approach is unique in the literary world and is the basis for the close-knit community we’re building. Since our revival issue, we have stretched to compensate our contributors and editorial staff, but it is among our primary core values to always compensate writers and artists for their work. Paying our team members enables us to organize and operate our business with increased efficiency across the board. It improves the quality and timeliness of our editorial staff’s responses. Most important, it enables us to provide a forum for voices that are otherwise unheard.