Interview: Mauricio Martinez of 5'11' BASED IN NYC at 54 Below October 5th & 6th

"You have to collaborate with other artists, that's the only way you can grow and explore."

By: Sep. 30, 2023
Interview: Mauricio Martinez of 5'11' BASED IN NYC at 54 Below October 5th & 6th

A few short months ago Mexican singing actor and concert star Mauricio Martinez came to 54 Below with his show 5’11” BASED IN NEW YORK - a show that wasn’t only one of the most original concepts (one that has, since, been copied), it was also highly personal to the star of Broadway’s ON YOUR FEET!  Of course, Mauricio makes all of his shows personal but this one seemed to take him out on the limb a little further than he had ever ventured before.  The show was so splendid that this reviewer raved about it HERE, recommending a reprisal and a recording.

Wish granted.

On October 5th and 6th the Emmy Award winner will return to 54 Below to perform this hit show that he tours with and, for the first time ever, Martinez will be recorded live, in action, for the creation of a new album, his third to date.  An enormous admirer and supporter of Mauricio’s I reached out to see if he would have an informal talk with Broadway World Cabaret, and the phone rang, almost immediately.  What followed was a charming chat about the need for inspiration, the power of classic musical theater, and his dream of holding hands with a legend.

This interview has been edited for space and content.  

Tickets for 5’11” BASED IN NEW YORK can be reserved HERE.

Welcome to Broadway World, Mauricio!

Thank you.  Thank you always for all the support. I truly appreciate it.

You're having quite a year, aren't you?

Yes, I haven't stopped!  It's been crazy. It's been a very, very good year. 

But good crazy, right?

Very good crazy. I'm always very grateful to be working, and nonstop, and with new opportunities - it's amazing.

You got to live out a dream earlier this year: Don Quixote?

Yeah, Don Quixote… I think I finally reached the age that I can properly play him. It's always been a dream of mine 'cause, with my Spanish background, being a Mexican man, I think every Spanish or Hispanic actor dreams of portraying this iconic role. And I couldn't have had a better production.  It took place in a modern-day detention center, and it was a multi-ethnic cast, and it was truly beautiful. My heart and my soul needed it, and it was also important to do it in Florida, you know? At this time I think it was very timely, to do it there with a multi-ethnic cast, me as a proud, openly gay Mexican man portraying this iconic role. It was just perfect, perfect, perfect:  it was overwhelming. The response was truly amazing. We got a standing ovation every single night after The Impossible Dream, and during the show, afterward, it was truly remarkable. I hope I get to play that role again soon. I would love to keep digging and keep discovering things. 

I believe that your family was able to come up from Mexico to see the play.

Yeah, my mom flew from Mexico. My sister flew in from Spain, it was amazing, and I had friends also coming in from New York, and it was a remarkable three months in my life. And the sun! My days off were amazing 'cause I went to the beach!  And I just really realized how much people love not only Don Quixote and what he has to say, but The Impossible Dream, the lyrics of this song. I've been singing this song for quite some time now, in my concert, but I don't think it's until you really play the role, and you do it in the context of the show, that it really hits home, and you realize the importance and how timeless they are, you know?

I think it's always very important to remind people to keep the faith and to look at the glass half full as opposed to half empty. I think with the times we're living now, it is very important to go back to these classics. That's why they have stood the test of time, and they can be placed anywhere, dominantly, any language, any country with any culture, and they still work nowadays. I look forward to hopefully playing this role again, you never know - they might bring it to Broadway. 

It's interesting how there are classic musicals that we listen to recordings of, but the scripts don't stand the test of time. So people try to update the script and it doesn't work for them. But Man of La Mancha is a musical that doesn't need ever to be redone in any way. It can just be produced as it was written.

Interview: Mauricio Martinez of 5'11' BASED IN NYC at 54 Below October 5th & 6th
With Brian Nash and Mark Cortale

I totally agree. I don't think you should mess with the classics. I don't know if I'm a purist, but I'm very old school, I'm an old soul. Don Miguel de Cervantes knew what he was doing when he wrote (the novel) and the original play, Dale Wasserman and Mitch Leigh, who created this iconic musical in the sixties, they knew what they were doing. It really has stood the test of time. We didn't change any word, we just placed it in a modern-day detention center, and that's when you know the material is good.

You've also been doing a lot of traveling with your symphony shows, haven't you?

I've been doing my symphony shows all over Mexico and the U.S., and also my show that I do at 54 Below, which has a four-piece orchestra, I've been touring with that, and I’m very excited that I get to record an album too. I'm just over the moon - it’s a lifelong dream of mine, and I couldn't have chosen a better repertoire or a better time to do it, and what better place to do it than here in New York! I'm very excited. But, hopefully, maybe in the near future, I'll do a symphony album. 

This is not the first time you're being recorded but it's your first live solo concert, isn't it?

Interview: Mauricio Martinez of 5'11' BASED IN NYC at 54 Below October 5th & 6th
With Jaime Lozano

Exactly. This would mark, officially, my third solo album. I have some participations in Jaime Lozano’s SONGS FROM AN IMMIGRANT and I also have a couple of concept musicals that I've done with him in Mexico. I have the sort of like, Mexican Idol greatest hits that I did, but as a soloist, with me producing them, I have two Latin pop albums that are still available on all platforms. This marks my third solo album, but my first English-speaking album, and my first ever live album. So I am over the moon 'cause ultimately, (while) I do love being in the studio, I'm a live singer.  I'm a theater actor, I'm a musical theater performer, I'm a concert artist. So, I think it's very fitting to do this now, especially for the followers and the fans who know me from my telenovela days and my musical theater days back home in Mexico or Latin America, and they can't really come to New York, all the time. So I think it's a beautiful way to bring them a little piece of New York, of what I do here in New York.

You really thrive in the concert format. You really feed off of the energy from your audience - I've seen it.

Interview: Mauricio Martinez of 5'11' BASED IN NYC at 54 Below October 5th & 6th
With Michael Feinstein

Oh, thank you. I think you have to. I grew up watching many concerts in Mexico City and all over the world, I grew up admiring people like Barbra Streisand, and all these wonderful actor-singers who really know how to tell a story and connect with an audience. I think, when you're an actor, not only a singer, you have to connect to the audience, especially in a show like this, which is more of a cabaret format, and you have to really speak to the audience.  The audience changes night after night. It's never the same. And you also change; you may be feeling different, you may be going through different stuff, but it's ultimately the audience who kind of tells you where you're gonna take them to.  It depends on their response, it's very intimate, very magical. I love doing concerts. I think you can't deny happiness. You can't deny love, and you can't deny when you love what you're doing. And I'm like a fish in the sea when I'm on stage performing a concert.

But it's different in the symphony concerts than it is in cabaret.

Yes. Because it's much smaller.  We're talking about venues that have from a hundred to 150 people - that's very intimate. It's almost like being in a living room. I feel it is a living room - people are having dinner, maybe they're on a romantic date, or you're with friends, you're having a drink, and here comes the singer with musicians, with live music.  Also the setting, specifically talking about 54 Below, we're in a historic venue, in a landmark.  I just think of every single person that has been there, all the stories that have been told there, all the icons that have graced the stage of 54 Below. We're talking about Chita Rivera, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Linda Eder, Vanessa Williams, Jenn Colella, people that I deeply respect and admire.  

You mentioned, just a second ago, Jaime Lozano


You are attached to a brand new musical with Jaime, aren't you?

Yes!   I'm lending my voice to some of the songs that he's composing right now for the musical that's based on the life of the iconic Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, who, of course, is our pride and joy. If you're a Mexican artist, Frida's definitely up there, she's one of the greatest, and I think it's way overdue to have a Broadway musical of her life. And who better than my brother, Jaime Lozano, who understands our culture, our music, her story. I'm very excited to be giving voice to some of these songs, not knowing if I'm gonna be in it or not.

But, also, I've been developing and recording and trying to produce this other musical called Present Perfect. That is a beautiful story that he co-wrote with a wonderful lady named Nancy Cheser - it's also an immigrant story. It's a true story based on Nancy, who is an English as a second language teacher, and it all happens in her classroom. She's a Hasidic Jewish woman, and she has many immigrants from all over the world, as her students. And she falls in love with a Peruvian father - that's the character that I've been developing with Jaime - I've recorded two of the songs in this show, and I've had the privilege of singing them sometimes at venues like Lincoln Center.  We also did one in Green Room 42, at 54 Below, and we did in Mexico City, in Monterey, Mexico, which is our hometown. I've been singing these songs for a while now. We've done a couple of readings. We were gonna do a production in 2020, but then the pandemic happened, so we're trying to get it up on its feet again, hopefully regionally, so we can maybe bring it, in the near future to New York. I think it's a very important story that needs to be told. Again, it just showcases the brilliance of my brother Jaime, and his beautiful capacity of telling stories through gorgeous, risky music. He has so many influences. You can see the influence, you can listen to the influence he has, like Sondheim or Jason Robert Brown, but with his own style, and, of course, with his own Latin flair. He's crazy - a good, crazy -  and I love him, I am so proud of him. Whenever he calls me to collaborate with him, I'm going to be there. 

You seem to really enjoy the collaborative nature of this business.

Interview: Mauricio Martinez of 5'11' BASED IN NYC at 54 Below October 5th & 6th
With Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber

I have to because this business is all about collaboration - you have to collaborate with other artists, that's the only way you can grow and explore. And I'm like a sponge.  I call it the second act of my career and of my life. Hopefully, I'm in the middle of my life, at this stage, in my age, in my life and my health and everything. I'm finally in the city where I've always wanted to be and I wanna learn from everyone. I'm excited to work with older people who are very established,  but also young ones. I'm just enthralled with how much talent there is.  I believe in collaboration. I believe that you can only become better if you work together with other artists. That's the only way you can grow. It would be very lonely and selfish to do it on my own. I can't do it on my own.  (Laughing)

So are you still doing a lot of self-tapes?

Interview: Mauricio Martinez of 5'11' BASED IN NYC at 54 Below October 5th & 6th
With Robbie Rozelle

Yes!  (Laughing)  I just finished one, literally, right now for a movie, and I have to turn in another one on Monday for a musical. That's my life. That's every actor's life, not only in this city, I think all over the world, since the Pandemic. I think the self-tapes, whether we like it or not, are here to stay - we better make amends with them, and enjoy it and, like I do in my show, have fun with them, put them to good use. I have all these sides and sheet music that I didn't know what to do, and there are gorgeous songs. And I went, “Well, why don't we do a show around it?” And that's the show you got to see earlier this year, and you reviewed it so beautifully - you are very responsible for the fact that we're doing it again for two nights, which I've never done. And recording a live album! I think you're very responsible for that because you were the one who gave us the idea, in the review. Brian Nash, my musical director, and my co-writer and director Robbie Rozelle, we all read it and went, “You know what? He is right. Let's do this” And here we are!  (Laughing)

I'm glad that you're recording it because I loved it, and I think that it needs to be preserved.

That means the world to me. I really don't take reviews and words and positive criticism lightly. I have deep respect and admiration for people who have been in this business for a while, have been in this town for a while, and you've seen the greatest, and you've seen the worst. So the fact that I'm up there in your favorites - I'm humbled, I'm thrilled, I'm excited. I'm eternally grateful.

I want to end our chat with a really important question.


Have you pre-ordered your Streisand memoir yet?

(Laughing)  Oh, I ordered it the minute it was announced!  I think I was the first one to order it!

And now they've announced two record albums.

Well, yes, she's releasing two albums that are kind of companions, and I'm over the moon. I really hope she tours again, at least one concert.  She is my all-time favorite. One of my dreams is to one day meet her and hold her hand and look at her in the eyes and thank her. You know, I've been doing the Spanish rendition of “The Way We Were” and she's part of the soundtrack of my life, and I would love to have that moment. Hopefully, it'll happen.

Interview: Mauricio Martinez of 5'11' BASED IN NYC at 54 Below October 5th & 6th
With Gloria and Emilio Estefan

You must always take advantage of the moments to tell your heroes what they have meant to you. 

Some people tell that phrase, never meet your heroes. I don't agree. I've had the privilege of meeting many of my heroes, including my, now, friends, Gloria and Emilio (Estefan), who are family to me, and they've proven to be the most humble and loving people. I also got to work with Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber, who was just adorable with me. I've met many Latino and Mexican icons who are also my heroes. I've never had a disappointment - they set the example.  Hopefully, in the near future, the young ones that are coming behind me will look at me one day and maybe I will inspire people. 

Mauricio, I think you are already inspiring people.

I think that's very important. You need to inspire people. We need inspiration more than ever. I think the world needs it. We're craving art, music, inspiration, and positivity. I think the arts are destined to do just that.  I'm grateful to be doing what I was meant to do and to use my voice to sing, to entertain, also to defend causes I believe in, but always returning to the stage where I belong and singing to my audience that I'm so grateful that they're still here, and the new ones who are discovering me.

Mauricio, thank you for talking to me today.

Thank you so much. I send you a big hug. 

I'll be talking to you soon.

Definitely. Bye now. 

Mauricio Martinez 5’11” BASED IN NEW YORK plays October 6th and 7th at 7 pm at Midtown Manhattan’s iconic 54 Below.  Reservations can be made HERE.

Mauricio has an online presence HERE.

Photos courtesy of Mauricio Martinez.

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