Following his Southern California appearances in Once Upon A Mattress, Meet Me In St. Louis, Spring Awakening, and his Scenie-winning performance as Henry in Next To Normal, Alex Mendoza returns to his SoCal home turf as an ensemble member (and Sam/Harry understudy) in the 2013-2014 National Tour of the international smash Mamma Mia! We caught up with Alex at the tour’s current San Francisco stop to catch up on what’s been happening to the San Gabriel Valley native over the past half year or so.
You’re a hometown boy, having grown up in the San Gabriel Valley. What’s it been like for you as a Southern California native touring the rest of the country these past months?
You know, I’ve got to say that after traveling the country this year, I’ve learned to appreciate Southern California weather even more. I’ve lived Los Angeles my entire life and it’s amazing how spoiled we are with theater and the arts. There are so many places we’ve visited that don’t have theater to go to every week like we do, so I find it a blessing that I was able to get my theater bug in California.
How exactly did you first get bit by the musical theater bug?
Although I’ve always loved theater, when I was younger I was painfully shy and my family wanted to get me involved with something in school. The local high school was doing Oliver and needed elementary school boys to audition, so my parents dressed me up as an orphan and made me audition. Ever since then I’ve been obsessed with musical theater and performing.
What would you say was your favorite role or production before joining the Mamma Mia! tour?
My favorite role before Mamma Mia! would have to be in my most recent show, as Henry in Next To Normal. It’s been a dream role for me since the show was on Broadway and to be able to do it with McCoy/Rigby Entertainment was an honor. That company will always be like family to me.
Can you talk a bit about the audition process for Mamma Mia!
I still laugh at the audition process for me because at the time I was 21, just cast as a 17-year-old in Next To Normal, and was being seen to understudy two of the dads. I took immediate action in growing my beard, started researching the show on YouTube, and watched the movie.
Were there lots of callbacks, lots of suspense?
Joy Dewing, the casting director, has been one of my favorites to work with because she gave me so much feedback on the spot and let me know I was called back that same day, which just eases your nerves. The following week I read and sang for the Broadway team, a week later I got the call. It was interesting to find out in rehearsals that a lot of the cast members were in callbacks for months before getting cast.
Wow, that was fast, and how exciting for you! And now, here you are in the ensemble of a major national tour. How does it feel being in Mamma Mia!?
It’s been a surreal experience being a part of Mamma Mia! I’ve always dreamed of being a part of something big and to be in something with such a great reputation and following has been unbelievable, and I get to wear spandex and platform boots when I go on for a dad. What could be better?
You’re understudying two of the “Dads.” What’s that been like for you?
Understudying Sam and Harry has been one the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my theater career.
Have you been able to go on as either one or the other?
I was lucky enough to go on as Sam for three weeks, my first week being in Thousand Oaks, and really got to settle into the character.
How do you go about playing roles that are twice your age?
I’ve got to say that playing twice my age terrified me for the longest time, not only because I’m 22 but because I didn’t go on for about three months and hadn’t had a ton of rehearsal. I remember my first time I went on, reminding myself of the conversation I had with our director: “Have the confidence of the character and the audience will believe you.” Keeping that in mind and being able to work onstage with Mark Harmon as Harry and Michael Colavolpe as Bill just made me want to work harder because these two actors are people I look up to and admire. I looked to them for advice and help on creating chemistry between the three of us.
Do you have a favorite Sam scene?
My favorite scene to perform would have to be the argument between Sam and his possible daughter Sophie about whether or not she should go through with her wedding, because that was my chance to convince the audience I was her dad and I loved the challenge.
What’s the high spot of the tour so far?
I would say the highlight on tour has been playing all the venues that some of my favorite shows such as Wicked and The Phantom of the Opera have played. That was a surreal feeling.
To what do you attribute the phenomenal success of Mamma Mia!?
I think Mamma Mia! has been such a success because it is music that people know and love. People come to have a good time and enjoy the big concert at the end of the show. Who doesn’t want to go to a show that puts a huge smile on your face from beginning to end!
What are your feelings about being back in Southern California for this latest Mamma Mia! stop?
I am so stoked to come back to California again and have my friends and family see the show. The first time they saw it was my first night on as Sam and now they get to see me dance up a storm in one of my favorite numbers “Voulez Vous.”
Click here to purchase tickets to Mamma Mia!, playing April 8-13 at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts, Costa Mesa.
Alex’s Mamma Mia! bio:
Alex Mendoza (Ensemble, u/s Sam, Harry) is honored to be making his National Tour debut in Mamma Mia! He was last seen in McCoy/Rigby Entertainment’s premiere of Next to Normal (Henry) and their Spring Awakening (Georg). Other regional credits: Hair (Claude), Happy Days (Ralph Malph). Alex would like to thank God, his family, and KSR.