Something very strange is going on at the Ethel Merman Theatre—but “The Squad” is on the case! Check out Hamilton star Mandy Gonzalez reading an excerpt from her new book Fearless above.
2-year-old Monica Garcia has just been cast to star in a Broadway musical sendup of ‘80s adventure movies and it’s the theatre’s last chance to produce a hit before it shutters its doors for good. Even worse, there appears to be a decades-old curse that endangers any production’s leading players.
Together, Monica and her co-stars April, Relly, and Hudson must figure out who—or what—is making all of these events happen before another opening night goes up in flames.
Ahead of the book’s release, Gonzalez spoke with Playbill about the middle grade novel’s genesis, the importance of representation, and how she re-created the feeling on NYC on the page.
Check out the Q&A below or click here to order the book.
What can readers expect from Fearless?
Mandy Gonzalez: Readers can expect to go on an adventure! The reader will also get a glimpse into the behind the scenes aspects of Broadway, they will go on a mystery ride, they may even find some secrets, and they will learn about life and being fearless.
Which aspects of the book are based on your own childhood and journey to Broadway, if any?
Similar to the heroine, Monica Garcia, I also had a love of music and performing from a very young age. My grandma is the one who introduced me to Broadway, through stories, Original Broadway Cast Albums, and old movie musicals. I would dream of a life working on Broadway. In those albums and shows we would listen to, I would search for names that looked like mine. I searched for characters that looked like me. I didn’t have much luck. I wanted a place to belong to.
I am the proud granddaughter of Mexican-American farmworkers. Like Monica, I have family that work on the farm to this day. I had so many people tell me when I was younger, that no one like me could make it to Broadway. So it was really important to me to write a novel and create stories where kids could see themselves. To find a place where they belong. To know there is a place for them in the arts. Broadway is a place for everyone to belong, it is a place that embraces inclusiveness.
Were there any movies that inspired the sense of adventure throughout the book?
The Squad are in rehearsals for the new Broadway musical Our Time. This musical was inspired by all the great 1980’s adventure movies I watched as a kid on Laserdisc with my brother—movies like The Goonies, Adventures in Babysitting, and Stand by Me.
Why did you decide to include song lyrics as interludes?
Songs from the musical Our Time started to fill my head while writing this. Music is a powerful narrative vehicle. I knew they had to be short interludes in the book. It allows the reader to see what the characters on stage might be doing. It was also fun to put that together in the audiobook. I was fortunate to collaborate on Monica’s 11 o’clock number with my dear friend, and now Grammy winner, Tom Kitt!
Why begin with the sights and sounds of NYC in Chapter 1?
It was important that I capture the excitement of Monica Garcia’s first moments in NYC [on the subway, seeing the lights, feeling the energy, etc.]. There is no place like it. I want the reader to fall in love with this city as much as Monica has. When you’ve dreamed of a place for so long and actually make it there, it is a sensational feeling! It takes your breath away. I think everyone remembers their first time in NYC. It’s like making it to Oz.
Should teachers add this to their reading lists?
The story has a strong lead female protagonist that is Mexican-American and there is much written about the culture of her parents and grandparents and how they acclimated to life in the U.S. It teaches lessons about identity and how we define ourselves. It also has several other characters of diverse and varied backgrounds. It allows children to see themselves in the story. They will know they belong. It also has lessons about friendship and overcoming your fears.
Are there plans for another book?
Oh yes! I’m so happy to say that this is the first book of the Fearless series with Simon & Schuster. My second book will be coming out in Spring 2022.