The first song Mandy Gonzalez ever sang from Hamilton was “Say No to This.” The actress, who was in the original cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, joined the composer when he presented work at a Lincoln Center concert and debuted a few songs from some new project he was working on.
“Okay, he’s done it again,” Gonzalez remembers of her reaction that night.
So when director Thomas Kail, who also helmed Heights, called her to ask if she would be interested in playing Angelica Schuyler on Broadway in Hamilton, Gonzalez immediately said yes to this.
“I was such a huge fan and I listen to the soundtrack all the time,” she says. “Just to watch it grow and to watch these guys create something so fantastic and really change the culture of Broadway, it’s very exciting.”
And coming back to Broadway has felt like “coming home.” For one, she’s in the same dressing room at the Richard Rogers Theatre that she was in for Heights, and many of the theatre’s staff—from the doorman to the ushers—are the same. Gonzalez has also lived a lot of life since last appearing on Broadway as Elphaba in Wicked in 2010. She had her daughter, who is a huge Hamilton fan and even brought the Playbill to school. (“She loves the king,” Gonzalez said.) And she’s also carved out a career onscreen, in shows like Madam Secretary and Quantico.
“I’m a woman, W-O-M-A-N!” Gonzalez says with a laugh. She’s also preparing her second cabaret show, called “Raise the Roof,” which she created with Brian Nash and Eric Michael Gillett. The show, which she will perform at Feinstein’s/54 Below on March 12, is about how Gonzalez feels in her life right now.
“When I started doing [Hamilton], I was like we need to put together another show,” she says, adding that she wants to follow in the footsteps of performers she admires like Patti LuPone. “When you have opportunity you need to take it and it’s hard work but if you don’t do it, when are you going to do it?”
The Hamilton craze is hardly dying down, and Gonzalez has had the opportunity to meet many famous fans after the show, from Adele to Paul McCartney. Though one visitor was particularly cool for Gonzalez: Bruce Springsteen.
“I’m a huge Springsteen fan, and my husband’s from South Jersey, and so every time we drive to see his family, we just listen to Bruce Springsteen music,” she says.
The past few months have been a particularly interesting time to be performing a show that wrestles with politics and American history. Gonzalez joined the company in September, just two months before Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States, and she says doing the show every night has been cathartic for the actors and the audience.
“People can relate to the show because it is so relevant, and people can gain hope from the show and strength I believe—I know I do every night performing it,” she says. “It’s a very healing experience for the audience and for the company every night to tell this story of our founding fathers.”
The story is also personal for Gonzalez, who says “the life that I’ve lived up to this point only enriches my interpretation of Angelica,” and her rapping skills for Angelica’s big number “Satisfied” have some familial roots.
“I listened to a lot of hip hop and rap as a kid growing up,” says Gonzalez, who grew up near Los Angeles and has an older brother and sister. “My brother and I are a year apart, and he used to drive me to school. He put subwoofers on his car, and we’d listen to A Tribe Called Quest, a lot of Tupac, and Snoop Dogg. I’m very excited about getting the chance to show my skills. My brother is going to come to the show in two months so I think he’s going to be very excited and proud of me.”
Gonzalez’s life is full of art—her husband’s a painter and their New Jersey home showcases his work. They met in college at CalArts. Gonzalez was performing with a band and invited him to see one of her shows, and they’ve been together ever since. Her love of art translates to her love of fashion, and if she’s not checking out an art gallery, performing, or seeing theater, she’s usually at her friend Mara Hoffman’s showroom.
“She dresses me for every big event,” says Gonzalez calling Hoffman’s style “for the every day woman.”
While Gonzalez’s daily life might not be as glamorous as a red carpet event, she does like to keep a little fabulousness in her routine, even if it’s just for morning carpool. “I always carry a tube of Chanel lipstick in my bag,” she says. “I always like to have a little pop of color.”
She’s a fan of accents in style, whether it be a sparkle broach or a fake fur collar or a nice belt. Today, she’s dressed in a clean, classic style with a black turtleneck, jeans, and black heeled boots. “I’m a big lover of new trends but also keeping in with the classics,” Gonzalez says of her style.
She’s also a fan on the classics in music, and one song that’s really striking a chord for where she is in her life right now is “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard, which she sings in her cabaret show.
“This is my first time back on Broadway since I’ve been gone and had a child and been working in film and television, and I think that song for me says so many things.” Then she adds, “It’s just fantastic.”