"He somehow never crossed my path until about four years ago," says Mambo. "But the more I listened to him, and read about him, and studied him, the more his music just became infectious. One day, one of my friends said to me, 'you could play him,' and I started working on my own concert-type show about him. I had heard about this show and they had heard about me, so I auditioned for it Off-Broadway. But I decided to do Ruined instead of being the understudy."
One of the many skills Mambo brings to the table is his familiarity with the saxophone; and while it appears that he's playing the instrument on stage, it's an illusion. "I started playing the saxophone when I was 10. In all these pictures of me growing up, you can tell how I'm aging by the proportion of the size of the saxophone to the size of my body," he says. "But as far as the show is concerned, playing the sax is demanding, and I need to keep whatever wind I can. The first time I did a full performance, I remember thinking: 'Where am I going to get the wind to do Act 2?'"
It helps that Mambo lost nearly 50 pounds in recent months to play the wiry Fela; and his skin-tight costumes give him the necessary motivation to keep the weight off. "Every time I want to put a pastry in my mouth, I think about those pink pants I wear in the second act," he says. "That was part of Fela's thing -- to wear these unique designs on the stage. All of my costumes are handmade, and I tell you, after this show, it's going to be really difficult to buy clothes off the rack."