BWW Interview: Broadway's Lindsay Mendez on Her Return to Feinstein's/54 Below and How Her Students Have Inspired Her Artistic Journey
Broadway's Lindsay Mendez (Wicked, Godspell, Grease, Significant Other) is returning to Feinstein's/54 Below this September with a brand new solo show that will explore the Golden Age of Broadway! Drawing from the gifted actress and singer's own musical favorites and influences, the show will also be reflective of Mendez's work as a teacher and how her students have inspired her journey as an artist.
BroadwayWorld had the incredible opportunity to connect with Mendez before her shows to discuss her return; her biggest musical influences; and introducing the next generation to classic repertoire.
So you must be really looking to making your return to Feinstein's/54 Below this September!
I am - I'm really so excited to do my own cabaret show here in New York. I finally felt ready to put it together and am thrilled to be able to come back to Feinstein's/54 Below - I just love the venue so much.
The history of the venue itself is so special. Sherie Rene Scott was one of the first people to have a show there and I guest performed with her - it was the most magical, beautiful place and it's become like a home for myself. It means a lot to me to share this show with audiences.
How does creating your own solo show open you up in new ways as an artist?
When you are preparing for a role, you have a script to comb through and the writer's help in telling you about the character and then you can fill in the gaps. When you are doing a cabaret show, it's very personal. You have the opportunity to share parts of yourself with an audience and figure out how you want to connect. You also think about the music you are passionate about and what you want to feature. The two mediums feel very different.
I do a lot of different styles of shows and getting to have my own night where I can flex all of my muscles is super exciting.
Your show will be exploring the golden age of Broadway. Can you talk more about the music styles and the artists who will help bring your show to life?
I'm a huge Marvin Hamlisch lover, so I definitely wanted to have a song of his in my set. I think ultimately for me, a lot of my material is derived from my work as a teacher. I teach a lot of young musical theatre actors and I notice that a lot of them say that have a harder time connecting the classic repertoire. That's something that got me thinking that maybe they don't hear modern voices on classic repertoire and part of my responsibility is to also share where musical theatre came from and who created the paths, like Pasek & Paul and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
It felt like a great opportunity for me to shed some light on some classic reps that they would really enjoy and maybe be hearing for the first time and perhaps it would inspire them to go home and listen to more of that.
Have you chosen any specific themes to explore?
I definitely think that coming of age is one I explore a lot. There's a lot about unity and love and feeling in this show - a lot of what the world could use right now.
That's so wonderful that you've had the chance to give back through teaching. Can you talk more about that part of your life?
Feinstein's/54 Below also gives myself and my business partner, Ryan Scott Oliver, an opportunity to let our students showcase there - - they do concerts there, where we present them. It's a really wonderful experience!
I've been teaching now for about six or seven years with the Actor Therapy class and I'm so inspired by my students. It really fills me up as an artist and they are always in consideration of what I do next on my own artistic journey.
That's so awesome! Who are some of your other personal musical influences?
I'm a big Broadway fan and a big MGM fan. Judy Garland, Doris Day, and Gene Kelly were all big influences growing up from all of the films. I'm also a huge folk music fan - Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan have influenced a lot of how music can inspire change in our world. We definitely need more musical activists.
Looking back, what has music ultimately represented for you?
Music has really been my whole life. I connect memory to music. Sometimes I have a hard time drawing memories to back when I was young, but if I hear it in a song, somehow I can remember every word and where I was when I heard it or why I know it. I think I'm a person who feels music very deeply and that's been my way of communicating or feeling. I feel so fortunate that I've had the opportunity to make my life about it - I never take it for granted.
Performances will take place on Tuesday, September 12th; Thursday, September 14th; Friday, September 15th; and Saturday, September 16th at 7 p.m. Visit https://54below.com/events/lindsay-mendez/ for more information and to buy tickets.