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February 27, 2024
REVIEW: Mauricio Martínez Soars While Slating in New, Self-Released Album, Live in NYC

“Who am I anyway? Am I my résumé?”

Such is the question posed by Mauricio Martínez at the top of his solo show 5’11’’, Based in NYC, recently performed at Midtown hotspot 54 Below. While, in this context, sung slightly tongue-in-cheek, embodying Paul San Marco from A Chorus Line, there’s more truth to this query than one might surmise – especially for the actor, frequently putting himself up for new roles, making himself vulnerable in an attempt to increase that (hopefully) ever-growing list, but knowing full-well he may not land it in the first place.

Photo Credit: Michael Hull

It's a feeling all too fitting for this show, which sees Martínez running through a Rolodex of roles for which he’s put himself on tape over the years. Shifting song styles, characters, and even languages, with passes at everything from Chicago and Company to & Juliet and Hamilton, it’s a full-out romp through his repertoire, staunchly showcasing both his incredible versatility and rich, resonant baritone, and colorfully peppered with his quick wit and genuine sensibility. 

Now, the show has been repurposed into a lively live album – Mauricio Martínez: Live in NYC, self-released by the artist himself – adapted from his earlier October concert and recorded across two nights at the supper club. 

Produced by Martínez and standout director Robbie Rozelle, and mixed, mastered and edited by Yasuhiko Fukuoka, the album does much to capture the joy and raucous energy of the evening – itself also written by Martínez and Rozelle, with stellar music direction & arrangements by the incomparable Brian J. Nash. 

Top: Martínez & guest Alexis Michelle / Bottom: Martínez & guest Linedy Genao / Photo Credit: Michael Hull

Both the show and the album are hilariously put together, not only showcasing Martínez’s magnificent voice, but poking fun at the foibles of self-taping, with cleverly-written winks at delays, recording time-outs, and the dreaded slate – all speaking to the monotony of the practice and the peaks and pitfalls of getting it exactly right. Helping him through his plight are a host of cleverly utilized readers, including On Your Feet co-star Ana Villafañe (appearing, aptly, on tape), Bad Cinderella’s Linedy Genao and Drag Race standout Alexis Michelle, who each add to the merriment with their own unique musings and musical style. 

Backed by a symphonic trio that includes Eleanor Norton (cello), Mary Ann McSweeney (bass), Jeremy Yaddaw (drums), album highlights include a dastardly devilish villain medley, mixing The Duke of Moulin Rouge with Little Shop’s Orin Scrivello and The Lion King’s Scar with none other than Mr. Hyde; a spine-tingling Spanish rendition of “The Music of the Night,” honoring both his mother and his Mexican heritage, a tongue-twisting “Another Hundred People” he admits is difficult even for English speakers to maneuver, a bouncy-and-bubbly “You Are Woman, I Am Man” opposite equally excellent guest performer Michelle; and, most hauntingly, a quiet “Good Thing Going,” poignant here, because it, again, might sum up the feelings actors may have after a self-tape gone awry or not booking that fated job. 

On that note, while we can assume he went in, or self-taped, for all the roles in which he sings, a few more detailed descriptions of these instances would give each song’s introduction a bit more flavor. For example, who wouldn’t want to hear more about his experience singing for Stephen Sondheim, or what must have been a blast auditioning for Lance in & Juliet (and, after all, they’ll need replacements eventually, no)?! 

Furthermore, another element lost on the album is the hilarious visual send-up of self-tapes and cheeky accompanying graphic art, fusing Martínez’s likeness with the titles of some of these shows – created by the show’s standout director and co-writer Rozelle, CaMAUlot and MAUrrily We Roll Along were among the highlights – and displaying them on the monitors during the live performance. 

However, acknowledging that this is a record, after all, and it’s edited and developed in such a way to stand alone, free of references to visual gags that might isolate or confuse a listener, there are also kudos owed here for making it work, forgoing the visuals to better enhance the listening experience, so we can enjoy the album for what it is.

And what it is, on the whole, is fantastic. 

Photo Credit: Michael Hull

And the true beauty lies in capping the night with a song from a role he did book – a Latinx linchpin, at that – whose lyrics, moreover, speak directly to the theme of his show, bringing the evening fabulously full-circle in a way that seemed uncannily meant to be.

And sure, while again, speaking facetiously, one could say, the “impossible dream” lies in actually producing a successful self-tape in itself.

But it here speaks to the feat of being a little boy from Monterrey, Mexico, who, “never in [his] wildest dreams…would have imagined” he would perform in his home country, then conquer the West End, and ultimately debut on Broadway. And amidst a plethora of roles he was passed up for, it’s incredible for him to – in all senses of the word here – literally say he ended on top.

And we come to realize, whether he booked the show or not, that just in doing the work — no matter the result — he has indeed fought, and is continually fighting, “the unbeatable foe to reach the unreachable star.” 

Which, of course, goes to show that if you stick with it and persevere, no matter the number of delays you encounter or how many re-records it takes, maybe “the impossible dream” isn’t that “impossible” after all.

Mauricio Martínez: Live in NYC was recorded live last October at 54 Below (254 W. 54th Street) and is now available wherever music is streamed.

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