The anti-diva with the diva’s voice


THURSDAY, Sept. 21 — Mandy Gonzalez has earned the right to be a supercilious diva. Instead, her concert yesterday evening revealed how approachable and humble she can be. But make no mistake. Gonzalez’s singing has a potency even the most revered divas would envy.

After appearing in Tony-winning Broadway productions like “In the Heights,” “Wicked” and “Hamilton,” Gonzalez included the Wharton Center’s Pasant Theatre in her solo concert tour. The crowd showed its appreciation with repeated roars, whoops and deafening applause.

Gonzalez’s mighty voice demands a mighty response. She sang each song with the kind of force and emotion that made them all sound like monumental grand finales. And her ability to sustain a controlled, vibrato-tinged wail was stunning.

Between the melodic vocal calisthenics, Gonzalez chatted about her life, family, successes and a major failure, the Broadway show “Dance of the Vampires.” She often thanked and introduced the trio that backed her up on the unadorned stage. She also shared insights into the difficulties of playing the green witch in “Wicked.” The sincere talks made her even more likable.

Gonzalez mentioned her Mexican and Jewish heritage and sang some song verses in Spanish. She spoke of standing three hours in line to win an audition to be a backup singer for Bette Midler before singing one of her signature songs, “In These Shoes.” 

Unlike a diva, Gonzalez never boasted about her movie or TV roles, the young-adult books she’s authored, recordings she’s made or founding a social media movement with tens of thousands of followers. In a sparkly outfit and spiked heels, Gonzalez mostly let her powerful voice do the talking.

Her versions of songs from “West Side Story,” Motown, a Disney movie and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” were full of power and style. And when she sang songs from plays she’s been in, each sounded like the consummate rendition.

Phenomenal piano playing by Gonzalez’s music director, Dan Lipton, and precise and tasteful embellishments by Hank Horton on electric bass and Steven Wulff on drums made numbers usually heard with orchestral backings seem full enough.

The impressive Grand Ledge High School Choir joined the trio for a finale performance of the title track of Gonzalez’s “Fearless” album. The 30-plus voices behind Gonzalez’s wails made the climax to an approximately 90-minute concert even more special — but not before the anti-diva gushed about their talent and praised their director.


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