EXCLUSIVE: Gloria Estefan Was ‘Hardly Holding It Together’ on Premiere of Musical

7 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘On Your Feet’ review: The good, the bad and the conga-licious.

The electrifying and infectious Broadway musical, “On Your Feet!,” about the king and queen of Latin music, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, premiered Thursday to a star-studded crowd who could only praise the Cuban-American couple for making history. “It’s been a beautiful journey,” Gloria Estefan, 58, told Fox News Latino on the red carpet after the premiere at the Marriott Marquis Theater. “It’s been one of love and pain, but tonight on that stage, every single person gave their love, gave their story because it’s not just about Emilio and me. “How did [Alex Dinerlaris] write words that are more relevant today than they were then, with demagogues spewing racism and bigotry?” said producer Bernie Yuman, referencing Donald Trump.The audience joins in the dance, and in a flash, Broadway is thrust into the vibrant, sparkling — and sometimes harrowed — world of Latin music’s most successful crossover artist.

Miserable affairs, angsty German teens and sad-sack British royals — in shows like “Thérèse Raquin,” “Spring Awakening” and “King Charles III” — have made the season a dour one. It’s the story of every Latino on that stage.” The Grammy-winning singer touted the show’s all-Latino cast – a first for Broadway – adding that she hopes it’s something that inspires others. “We are the ones who are shaping this particular play … [but] I hope that it’s something that everyone, wherever they’re from, can identify with in a human way,” Gloria said. “It’s celebratory. Broadway audiences customarily clap after musical numbers, but one line has repeatedly triggered spontaneous applause in On Your Feet!, the new musical about groundbreaking performer Gloria Estefan and her producer-musician husband Emilio Estefan. As the first Latina singer to become a crossover sensation with tunes popular in both English and Spanish-speaking markets, Gloria has sold over 100 million albums worldwide during a career spanning three decades, and has earned seven Grammy Awards to boot.

Beat,” to a record label executive, they’re told a crossover from the Latin market is impossible. “You’re not back home anymore,” the exec tells them. “So you don’t make the rules.” “That actually happened to me,” Emilio recalled to The Hollywood Reporter at the show’s opening on Thursday. “I said, ‘You know what? USA Network “Sirens” star Josh Segarra heads the cast as Emilio — for better or worse — and Broadway newcomer Ana Villafane, a fellow Miami Cuban who even graduated from the same high school as Gloria Estefan, is dazzling as the lively songstress. But I wanted to create something just for this play.” Deeply involved in the creative process from the show’s conception to its pre-Broadway run in Chicago, the Cuban-born artist was sorting through old fan letters to use in the show when book writer Alex Dinelaris (Birdman) gave her a call with a specific assignment. “He said, ‘I have the scene I want you to write the tune for,’ and described a whole hospital scene with my mother on one side of me, and Emilio on the other side with [my son] Navid,’” she recalls. “I had the hook in my head right away.” Based on a tune that daughter Emily originally composed for a high school music assignment, the emotional ballad “If I Never Got to Tell You” was a way to incorporate her youngest child into the production, whose story ends before her birth.

This is what you’re gonna get.’ ” “They kept telling us, ‘Your sound won’t work, this is not your country, change your name, take out the horns, take out the percussion,'” Gloria Estefan explained. “We wanted to succeed with who we were, because if you succeed, you’re gonna be doing it the rest of your life, so you better like it! A Cuban immigrant, Gloria begins singing with Emilio Estefan’s band while in college, eventually marrying him and becoming first a confident frontwoman and then a successful solo artist. But with her musical aspirations of her own, was the younger Estefan – a college senior – ever a candidate to portray her famous mother on stage? “Everybody tried to hound her into it, but she said ‘Mom, I’d have to kiss Dad. There’s some dramatic conflict here – a sick father, an ostensibly disapproving mother, a terrible accident and an arduous recovery – though perhaps not quite enough to justify a conventional book musical. Our home country is still part of us, but we love this country.'” The onstage moment seems to resonate further in light of Donald Trump’s recent comments that most undocumented immigrants from Mexico are criminals.

Yet that’s what writer Alexander Dinelaris attempts, with lots of scenes of Gloria standing up for herself and Emilio standing up to A&R guys and everybody else just sort of standing around. – Villafane is as resilient and magnetic as her part requires, and in her over-moussed curls, leather and sequin-laden jackets, she is certainly a believable Gloria.

This biographical jukebox musical packages every showbiz cliché — rags to riches, tragedy and triumphs — between hits like “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” and “1-2-3.” If you have a weakness for sultry singers in leather chaps and bedazzled toreador pants, so much the better. Just the day before opening night, nearly 70 prominent Hispanic figures condemned the presidential candidate through an open letter, and multiple Latino community advocacy groups protested his upcoming Saturday Night Live hosting stint at 30 Rockefeller Center, located just blocks away from the Marquis Theatre. Her sterling vocal ability, which did well to mimic Estefan’s pop edge, shines most in Act 1’s ballad “Anything For You,” (an audition for Emilio’s Latin Boys and duet with sister Rebecca), and the finale “Coming Out Of The Dark” — a portrayal of Estefan’s 1991 American Music Awards performance following her bus accident. It resembles “Motown: The Musical” in its look at the struggles minority musicians face and the show “Beautiful” in the way it celebrates songwriting.

She herself told me, ‘Mom, there’s no way I’d be ready for something like that.’” Instead, Gloria is played by Ana Villafañe, a 26-year-old Miami native making her Broadway debut. That changed with the 1985 song “Conga.” After the duo and their band, Miami Sound Machine, played it everywhere they could, from bar mitzvahs to weddings to Shriners conventions, the song became a hit.

The play’s moniker launches full force at the end of Act 1, when the monster hit “Conga” sends the ensemble into the crowd for a dance line, ripe for audience participation. The two share similar coloring, Cuban heritage and even attended the same all-girls high school, though Gloria insists when it came to casting her leading lady, she “didn’t want a clone.” “There was something about her demeanor,” recalls Estefan of Villafañe’s audition. “I went, ‘Oh my god, this girl could be my daughter.

And after the final notes of “Coming Out,” the wonderfully sharp, 17-piece Latin band regains center stage and rousing versions of “Turn The Beat Around” and “Everlasting Love” leave the show in a shimmy-sure place. It’s not that she sounded exactly like me, but that’s not what we were going for …I wanted someone who could interpret my life.” It’s a life that Gloria says hopes will inspire others, with its deeply personal narrative about love, loss, and getting back on one’s feet. Sergio Trujillo’s high-energy choreography — a mix of sensuous Latin ballroom and pelvis-busting acrobatics — propels the action, but the show belongs to its cast. – The supporting cast is very strong, namely Estefan’s parents, portrayed by Andrea Burns and Eliseo Roman, both best known for roles in “In The Heights.” Roman delivers perhaps the show’s most resonant vocal, during a duet of “I See Your Smile” with Villafane. Just one warning: make sure you pack tissues for the performance. “I promise myself every night that I’m not going to cry, but I can’t help myself when I turn around and I see people there crying and being moved,” Gloria admits. “I have cried more in this year than in my entire life.

Villafañe’s Gloria is sexy in an approachable, likable way, while Segarra’s Emilio is just as hot but also endearingly self-deprecating — half the jokes are at the expense of his thick Spanish accent. Sony head Tommy Mottola and Gloria’s fellow crossover artist Thalia celebrated the Estefans’ show with Kenny Ortega, Rita Moreno, Susan Lucci, Carlos Ponce, Maria Elena Salinas, Jaime Camil, Dascha Polanco, Bernadette Peters, Diane Sawyer and Lance Bass, among others. The costumes, by ESosa, are somewhat chintzy looking, but zingy for all that and there’s flair to Sergio Trujillo’s hip-shaking, panty-flashing choreography. (It is also a treat, comparatively rare on Broadway, to see so many talented dancers of colour performing it.) The director, Jerry Mitchell, doesn’t have a sure hand for pace or tone here, instead employing a pile of cheaply effective tricks, like trotting out small children and the elderly like so many adorable pets. It may be barking up the wrong tree to expect tremendous conflict from a show designed for the crowd to sing and dance along, but besides the bus accident, Gloria and Emilio’s career path isn’t so exceedingly unique.

Josh Segarra, undistinguished in a couple of earlier roles, is quite charismatic as Emilio and good-humored enough to carry a couple of jokes at his own expense, the first involving a pair of tight white shorts. Yes, their decisions brought them to greater heights than most, but Gloria’s mother wanting her to use her college degree, or the band struggling to get radio play is true of many acts.

Like a Gloria Estefan concert — which is essentially what “On Your Feet” turns out to be — there’s plenty of feel-good and excitement, but when the fans leave the theater, the conversation isn’t likely to expand beyond “well, that was fun.” – A pseudo-angelic ensemble scene, with the cast all draped in white — seemingly to portray heaven while Estefan undergoes a nine-hour back surgery — and slinking around singing “Wrapped” as Villafane spots her now-dead father and grandmother, is unnecessarily avant-garde in the otherwise stick-to-the-jukebox show.

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