‘We were incredibly young’ – original Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim star recalls big Broadway break

Before she was an award-winning “dancing woman” in shows like American Idiot, Founding Dancer with the New York City Ballet and on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, Natalie Mendoza took center stage – literally – on Broadway.

Mendoza stars as Lavinia in the Tony Award-winning revival of Lyrics! By Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, based on the songs of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

So did she even realize when she performed at the 100th Street Theater (that’s where it’s now called) that she was performing on Broadway?

“No, when I first auditioned, I thought that I was just going to go to a meeting. I was very naive, that’s for sure, but at the same time, it’s a huge opportunity for me,” Mendoza said.

Why was it such a huge opportunity? Well…

“It’s nerve-wracking as hell. I remember sitting there at the audition, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m up against these seasoned Broadway professionals’. Obviously, I am still shaking like a leaf, but there’s no other way you can become a Broadway star other than to work very hard and train.”

It wasn’t long before Mendoza was taking to the stage and making her mark in New York City in a role that she says is almost spot-on to her own.

“There’s a freedom that I have playing Lavinia, I think because it’s a little bit kind of iconoclastic. She’s kind of a pure character and she’s misunderstood and she’s fiery and she’s just a total, complete badass and I think that is really reflected in my performance.”

‘Moulin Rouge!’ opens at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway on 6 July.

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