Actress, singer/songwriter, and Albuquerque, New Mexico native Jennifer Sánchez made her Broadway debut in the 2009 revival West Side Story, singing the iconic “America” by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim on stage, and on the Grammy Award-winning cast album. Since then, her fame has grown with her appearances in another seven shows on The Great White Way – Women on The Verge of A Nervous Breakdown (2010), Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark (2011), Ghost the Musical (2012), On Your Feet (2015), Sunday in the Park with George (2017 revival), and most recently in the original Broadway premiere cast of Pretty Woman in 2018, and the Roundabout Theater Company’s 2019 revival of The Rose Tattoo.
In addition to her acting, Sánchez is noted for her concerts and cabaret shows at such popular midtown nightclubs as The Green Room 42 and Feinstein’s/54 Below, including an upcoming special guest appearance rescheduled for February 25, 2021, with two-time Legacy Robe winner Vasthy Mompoint in Bits, Gummies, Folk, and Love (or how I survived the last year of my life). And with the COVID-19 shutdown of live performances, she has also become active in entertaining her followers on digital platforms like Times Square Alliance’s Songs for Our City (for which she won the Audience Choice Award) and Broadway Buskers (with a show of her original music set to stream in August), and on YouTube, with her irresistible romantic ‘quarantune’ called “The Cabbage Song,” which she just penned and recorded earlier this month.
After I saw the video, I couldn’t stop smiling, and I couldn’t wait to speak with her. Jen graciously agreed to join me remotely for some quick questions about her career and her activities in our current time of coronavirus, in our monthly Pop-quiz format that should leave everyone smiling.
- What is it about cabbage?
Jen: It’s very healthy, especially if you’re not feeling well. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had COVID, so I made myself a big pot of cabbage soup, then I went to be tested. I was positive, and I stayed in quarantine after that and ate the soup.
- Do you prefer eating it or playing it?
In this case, I definitely preferred playing it, because I couldn’t taste it anyway! That’s one of the symptoms of the coronavirus – you can’t taste anything. It was fun to make instruments out of stuff I had around the apartment, like using the cabbage for a drum and chopsticks for drum sticks.
- What are your three favorite comfort foods?
Amy’s frozen mac and cheese with chili – that’s my go to; I’m vegetarian. Applesauce. Mashed potatoes.
4. What do you miss most about live theater?
There’s no screen or Zoom that can ever replace the energy of a live performance, around real people. Energy is so visceral.
- What’s the best thing about going virtual?
The best thing for me was that I got to discover new ways to make music. I don’t usually use garlic for a shaker, but I did for “The Cabbage Song” – you find another way when you have to!
- Have you learned any new techie skills?
Yes, I used the Acapella app for the video, which I had never used before. You can layer all your harmonies, and you can also connect with other people. I’m also looking at Voisey and Harmony Helper.
- What’s your favorite pastime to alleviate boredom?
Of course I’ve pulled out my guitar and ukulele! I don’t usually play the uke, but I have one, and I felt that since the world’s so upside down right now, I should try new things, so I did.
- What did you give up first in isolation – haircare, make-up, or pants?
Pants. When things do open up, I’m sure this will be the new normal. People will walk around outside with masks, but no pants!
- Is there anything you’re enjoying about sheltering in place?
I’ve been through periods of feeling very uncreative, but I just started writing again, so I’m happy about that. But the best thing is having time for rest, because the Broadway schedule is relentless, it’s tough. This isn’t the way I would have wanted a break, but it has been good to rest.
- Which three songs do you most love singing?
“Moon River” is my all-time favorite song; “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George is my second favorite; and “New Light” by John Mayer, but especially the cover by Melissa McMillan – I love when people do songs in a new way.
- When did you first realize that a life in the theater was the right one for you?
I always knew, since I was very young. I recorded a song with my Dad, who plays the guitar, when I was four. I’m from New Mexico, so I never got to go to NYC or Broadway till I was in college. I saw Grey Gardens, and I swear Christine Ebersole did the entire show for me – that was how she made me feel! When I went back, I changed my major from Classical Voice to Musical Theater.
- Which was more fun to do – a Broadway show with devout Catholic women from the village [The Rose Tattoo] or a prostitute [Pretty Woman]?
I’m going to have to say the devout Catholics – and I never knew I was such a prude! It was my first play. I’m usually in musicals, so I’m used to being in big production numbers, but this was a more intimate affair.
- Is there any particular character or type you’d most like to play, or feel you could relate to best?
My dream is to be that nosy, crazy secretary, who blames her outbursts on low blood sugar! She’s just off, so I want to write her into something, or have someone write it. I kind of did a version of her in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
- What’s the first thing you did or place you went when NYC began to reopen?
I took the ferry to Rockaway Beach, with my mask, and I felt like a free little bird!
- Is there one big life lesson you’ve learned from the pandemic?
Yes; that we are all so connected and our actions do impact one another.
Thanks, Jen, for sharing an upbeat and personal 15 minutes, and for keeping us entertained during the shutdown! Stay safe; I know your fans (and I) can’t wait to see you back in person live on the New York stage.