When Saugus High School alum Mandy Gonzalez moved to New York in 2000, she told herself that she would be on Broadway in six months.
Though she wasn’t quite on Broadway when that deadline came around, she was certainly making strides toward her goal, starring in the off-Broadway show “Eli’s Comin’” at the Vineyard Theatre.
“While I was there, the show was very critically well-received,” she said, adding that she received an Obie Award, or an Off-Broadway Award, for her performance. “It was an incredible experience.”
Now, Gonzalez has successfully made a name for herself on Broadway, and is starring in “Hamilton.”
“I just feel so beyond blessed and grateful,” she said. “First and foremost for my family who are beyond supportive and love me so much. That means everything to me.”
She said her parents have always remained an extremely positive influence in her life and encouraged her to pursue her dreams.
“My dad bought me a singing machine when I was a kid, and he would take it to every family function and have me sing,” Gonzalez said, laughing. “My brother and sister couldn’t be more opposite… but they had to come to all my shows as kids, so I give them a lot of props.”
“We always knew that she was very talented,” her father Paul Gonzalez said, adding that she was always in plays while growing up. “We’re very, very proud of her.”
Before the big move, Gonzalez was studying theater at CalArts, but when she got a job as a backup singer for the Divine Bette Midler, she was able to save up enough to make the leap that would jumpstart her Broadway career.
From her role in “Eli’s Comin’,” she was recruited by Disney Theatrical Productions to be Idina Menzel’s standby in “Aida.”
“I think that was the first time my parents came to visit me in New York,” she said. “My dad arrived in Times Square with his suitcase at the ‘Aida’ stage door and was like, ‘Mija, I’m here!’ Now he just loves Times Square. That was so cool.”
Some of Gonzalez’s other credits over the years include Sarah in “Dance of the Vampires” with Michael Crawford, Amneris in “Aida” with Toni Braxton, Elphaba in “Wicked,” and various roles in “Lennon.”
When she got a call to audition for a new show being written by Latinos, for Latinos, she walked into the basement of the drama book shop to find the famous Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tommy Kail and Alex Lacamoire.
“That’s when my ‘In the Heights’ journey began as Nina Rosario,” Gonzalez said, which led to the creation of her own role in the Tony Award-winning musical.
Gonzalez remembers sitting down on the first day of rehearsal to read the script, and Miranda sang all the songs himself as no one knew them yet.
“I was like, ‘Who is this guy? He’s amazing. I want to be in this project forever’ — and I was. That was 10 years ago at the Richard Rodgers Theatre where I’m at right now doing ‘Hamilton,’” she said, adding that the cast and crew became like family and remain a huge part of her life.
Now, Gonzalez has joined the cast of “Hamilton” as Angelica Schuyler, and it’s been a dream come true.
“I feel like every day I won the lottery,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine a better job, and I’m having the time of my life.”
Her fellow castmates seem to agree, including Austin Scott, who is currently playing Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway cast.
“Mandy is the real deal,” Scott said. “She’s alive and present in every moment onstage, and one of the warmest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Paul Gonzalez has seen Hamilton about three times now, and said he tries to visit his daughter every few months. He always asks her to get him New York keychains, which he gives to people he meets.
“He’d say, ‘You never know, mija, if they can’t go to New York, I want them to feel like they have a part in it,’” she said.
Gonzalez now has a family of her own and a 7-year-old daughter, yet she said the “Hamilton” cast and crew are extremely supportive.
“They are not only wonderful to work with, and the material is like nothing I’ve ever done before, but they’re also very supportive of me being a parent,” Gonzalez said. “If my daughter comes to say hi before the show, everybody is so loving towards her and makes her feel like she’s part of it, too. As a parent, I think that’s so important.”
Though her daughter loves music and knows more about pop music than Gonzalez ever did, Gonzalez isn’t convinced she’ll follow in her footsteps.
“Whatever she wants to do, though, I’ll support her like my parents did me,” she said.
Gonzalez still hasn’t forgotten her roots, and continues to work with her former high school drama classmate, Christine Tavares-Mocha, who is now choir director at Valencia High School, whenever she’s home.
“That’s part of who I am is giving back and meeting with young people to let them know that their dreams are possible,” she said.
In fact, Gonzalez will soon be returning to town with friends and fellow Broadway stars Javier Muñoz and James Sampliner in tow.
“I’ve asked them to come out and see what my hometown is all about,” she said, adding that she and Muñoz will be performing Broadway hits at CSUN’s The Soraya on Oct. 26 and UC Irvine’s Barclay Theatre on Oct. 27.
“It’s almost sold out because Paul Gonzalez has pretty much sold all the tickets,” Gonzalez added, chuckling.
For more information, visit mandygonzalez.com.