On Sept. 9 at 9:30 PM (the time Lindsay Mendez usually takes flight as Elphaba four blocks down at Broadway's Gershwin Theatre) the actress — on her night off from starring in Wicked, yet still dressed in emerald green — took the stage with collaborator, friend and music director Marco Paguia for their jazz concert debut at Manhattan nightclub 54 Below.
Mendez and Paguia, accompanied by Chris Tordini on bass and Tommy Crane on drums, opened the evening with their cover of John Legend's "Ordinary People," a staple for the duo and the first track off their debut album "This Time," which was released earlier this year.
"We are vocal on a Monday!" Mendez told the audience at 54 Below — which featured Dogfight songwriters and Tony Award nominees Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Wicked co-star Katie Rose Clarke and Tony-nominated director Michael Greif, among others — in response to the overwhelming applause, before briefing the crowd on how she first crossed paths with Paguia.
The two met in 2010 when Mendez played a Mennonette alongside Betsy Wolfe in Sherie Rene Scott's Everyday Rapture. Paguia served as musical director, conductor and piano player on the production. After the two hit it off, they began to compile a song list of tunes they wanted to reinvent with a jazz and R&B flair.
Mendez confessed that the next tune, a Queen cover of "I Want to Break Free," was a song that she and Paguia have recently been experimenting with. The evening at 54 Below offered a combination of old favorites that the two have recorded and performed in previous concerts at Birdland, Joe's Pub, Lincoln Center and more, as well as new material they've recently explored in the rehearsal room.
|photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Among the newer songs for Mendez and Paguia were a patter-style version of the 90s pop song "Lovefool" by The Cardigans — which they debuted at their latest Lincoln Center gig — and "Shade of a Shadow" by Faroese musician and songwriter Teitur. The evening continued with Peter Gabriel's "Washing of the Water," a tune that Paguia covered on his first jazz album; a soul-infused version of Buddy Miles' "Them Changes"; Pink Floyd's "Money," featuring effortless piano solos from Paguia — who, not to mention, played the entirety of the evening from memory, without sheet music; and a captivating performance of James H. Shelton's "Lilac Wine."
Mendez and Paguia dueted — with Mendez on vocals and Paguia on the keys, sans bass and drums accompaniment — on Joni Mitchell's "My Old Man," the first song that the two collaborated on but don't often use in concert, and the evening's encore, Raul Midón's "Sittin' in the Middle."
Before the encore, Mendez — with a week's worth of Wicked performances ahead — said with a laugh, "Everyone [must] go home, and I have to stop talking!" At the end of the night, it was evident that Mendez and Paguia, center stage at 54 Below, were "Sittin' in the Middle" of fans and friends in the heart of Broadway's theatre district.
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)