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On Your Feet! Chronicles the Rise of Emilio and Gloria Estefan from Cuba to Pop Superstardom

Mauricio Martinez and Christie Prades star as Emilio and Gloria Estefan (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

Mauricio Martinez and Christie Prades star as Emilio and Gloria Estefan (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

On Jan. 2-7, the Durham Performing Arts Center will ring in the New Year — with irrepressible Latin rhythms — with eight high-octane performances of On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan. Gaithersburg, MD-based Troika Entertainment’s First National Tour of this 2015 Broadway musical — directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (La Cage aux Folles in 2005 and Kinky Boots in 2013) and choreographed by 2016 Tony nominee and 2015 Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujillo (Memphis) and produced by James L. Nederlander of New York, NY; Estefan Enterprises Inc. of Miami Beach, FL; and Bernie Yuman — will be presented as part of DPAC‘s 2017-18 SunTrust Broadway Series.

This salsa-flavored biographical jukebox musical had its world premiere on June 2, 2015 at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, IL, where it played through July 5, 2015. The show made its Broadway debut on Nov. 5, 2015 at the Marquis Theatre, where it racked up 746 performances before closing on Aug. 20, 2017.

This exuberant musical, which earned a 2016 Tony nomination for Best Choreography for Sergio Trujillo, features toe-tapping, finger-snapping, booty-shaking music, lyrics, and orchestrations by the 26-time Grammy Award-winning Cuban immigrant husband-and-wife team of 60-year-old superstar singer Gloria Estefan and 64-year-old musician and producer Emilio Estefan and their groundbreaking crossover hit factory, the Miami Sound Machine, plus a book by 2015 Academy Award® winner for Best Writing, Original Screenplay Alexander Dinelaris, who cowrote the script for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and who also penned the script for the 2017 musical stage adaptation of The Bodyguard, which played DPAC on March 14-19, 2017.

Indeed, four members of the Miami Sound Machine — tour music director Clay Ostwald (keyboards), Jorgé “George” Casas (bass), Edwin Bonilla (percussion), and Theodore Mulet (trombone) — will accompany the tour’s stellar cast, which includes Christie Prades and Mauricio Martínez as Gloria and Emilio Estefan; Nancy Ticotin and Jason Martinez as Gloria’s parents, Gloria and José Fajardo; and Alma Cuervo as Gloria Estefan’s wise, funny maternal grandmother, Consuelo García, whose unwavering support and encouragement of Gloria as she pursues a career in music ultimately helps her granddaughter succeed, even though Gloria’s career choice alienates her mother, who was a very talented singer herself in her youth, but wants Gloria to pursue a very different career path.

The <em>On Your Feet!</em> tour cast includes (from left) Alma Cuervo as Consuelo, Claudia Yanez as Rebecca, Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, and Nancy Ticotin as Gloria Fajardo (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

The On Your Feet! tour cast includes (from left) Alma Cuervo as Consuelo, Claudia Yanez as Rebecca, Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, and Nancy Ticotin as Gloria Fajardo (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

“The play centers on the mother-daughter relationship [between the two Glorias],” says Alma Cuervo, who has been with On Your Feet! since the first reading of the script in 2014. Cuervo, who originated the role of Consuelo García on Broadway, explains that “Gloria Estefan’s mother did not want her to become a singer, because Gloria had majored in psychology [in college], and her mother wanted her to have a professional career [in that field].”

Cuervo notes that Gloria Estefan’s mother was a teacher with a Ph.D. in Cuba, but had to start all over when her middle-class

family fled Cuban Revolution and settled in Miami’s Little Havana. Estefan’s father joined the U.S. Army, and served during the Vietnam War. Cuervo says that José Fajardo’s exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam caused him serious health problems for the rest of his life.

The current U.S tour of On Your Feet! officially opened on Oct. 6, 2017 in Emilio and Gloria Estefan’s adopted hometown of Miami, FL. It’s currently scheduled to end on Oct. 7, 2018 in San Francisco, CA.

“The tour cast is wonderful,” says Alma Cuervo. “This production is every bit as good as the Broadway production. In fact, some of the cast did do On Your Feet! on Broadway; but more than half of the cast are brand new.”

Amaris Sanchez and Carmen Sanchez will alternate as Little Gloria; and Kevin Tellez and Jordan Vergara will alternate as Young Emilio, a Bar Mitzvah boy named Jeremy, and Gloria and Emilio’s son Nayib. Featured players also include Devon Goffman as a record-company executive named Phil and back surgeon Dr. Michael Neuwirth, who operated on Gloria after her terrible tour-bus accident, and Claudia Yanez as Gloria’s sister Rebecca Fajardo.

The Ensemble includes Karmine Alers, David Baida, Danny Burgos, Sam J. Cahn, associate choreographer Natalie Caruncho, Sarita Colón, Adriel Flete, Omar Lopez-Cepero, Hector Maisonet, Claudia Mulet, Jeremey Adam Rey, Joseph Rivera, Maria Rodriguez, Arianna Rosario, and Shani Talmor. Swings include dance captain Skizzo Arnedillo, Sam Cahn, assistant dance captain Jennifer Florentino, and Arianna Rosario.

<em>On Your Feet!</em> stars Christie Prades, who is shown here with Adriel Flete (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

On Your Feet! stars Christie Prades, who is shown here with Adriel Flete (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

In addition to original Broadway director Jerry Mitchell, choreographer Sergio Trujillo, and music director Clay Ostwald, the First National Tour’s creative team includes associate director Andy Señor Jr., associate choreographers Maria Torres and Natalie Caruncho. The creative team includes also includes music coordinator Patrick Vaccariello, technical director Scott Orlesky, set designer David Rockwell, lighting designer Kenneth Posner, costume designer Emilio Sosa, sound designer SCK Sound design, video/projection designer Darrel Maloney, hair & wig designer Charles G. LaPointe, props supervisor Kathy Fabian, production stage manager Eric Insko, stage manager Anthony CeFala, and assistant stage manager Saori Yokoo.

The First National Tour also features additional orchestrations by Jorge Casas/Clay Ostwald, arrangements by Lon Hoyt, arrangements/orchestrations by Oscar Hernández, casting by Telsey + Company and Justin Huff C.S.A., general management by Karen Berry, and company management by Susan C. Guszynski.

Alma Cuervo says that the Cuban-fusion pop hits that comprise show’s score will bring the DPAC audience to its feet time after time — and don’t be surprised if DPAC patrons form a conga line at the end of Act One! These chart-topping songs include “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” “Anything for You,” “1-2-3,” “Mi Tierra,” “Conga,” “Get on Your Feet,” “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” “Reach,” and “Coming Out of the Dark.”

“I’m the oldest one in the company,” chuckles 66-year-old Alma Cuervo. “I always have been, because I was the oldest one in New York.”

Cuervo, whose family is originally from Spain, but spent some time in prerevolutionary Cuba, was born Aug. 13, 1951 in Tampa, FL. “I was a kid in Florida when Fidel Castro came to power [in 1959],” she notes.

Alma Cuervo says she was probably bitten by the “theater bug” when she was 12. Touring shows piqued her interest, and she made her first trip to the Big Apple about age 13. Subsequently, Cuervo earned a bachelor’s degree in theater in 1973 from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, and an MFA in acting from the prestigious Yale School of Drama in 1976.

The band includes four Miami Sound Machine members: music director Clay Ostwald (keyboard), Jorg&eacute; Casas (bass), Edwin Bonilla (percussion), and Theodore Mulet (trombone) (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

The band includes four Miami Sound Machine members: music director Clay Ostwald (keyboard), Jorgé Casas (bass), Edwin Bonilla (percussion), and Theodore Mulet (trombone) (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

Cuervo says three-time Oscar®-winning actress Meryl Streep was a year ahead of her at Yale, but Brooklyn, NY-born 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Drama-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein was a contemporary and a friend. Indeed, Cuervo originated the role of Holly Kaplan, Wasserstein’s alter ego, in the inaugural Off-Broadway production of Wasserstein’s first play, Uncommon Women and Others, shortly after moving to New York in 1977. Cuervo won a 1978 OBIE Award for her performance.

Alma Cuervo made her Broadway debut as a Coat Check Girl and a Bridesmaid in the 1978 Revival of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s Once in a Lifetime. She says On Your Feet! is her 15th Broadway show! Some of her previous roles include Susannah in 1979 comedy Bedroom Farce, Deborah in the 1980 comedy Censored Scenes from King Kong, a performer in the 1982 original musical Is There Life After High School?, Daughter in 1984 original musical Quilters, various roles in 1989 play The Heidi Chronicles, Ooma in the 1989 play with music Ghetto, Mrs. Potts in the 1994 musical Beauty and the Beast, Ida Straus and a 3rd Class Passenger in 1997 musical Titanic, and Fraulein Schneider in the 1998 Revival of Cabaret. She also played Helga in the 1990 tour of M. Butterfly, Fraulein Schneider in the 1999 tour of Cabaret that played the Triangle, Mrs. Pearce in the 2007 tour of My Fair Lady, and Madame Morrible in both the 2005 Emerald City and 2009 Munchkinland tours of Wicked.

Even with her Latin American first and last name, Cuervo says she’s never worried about being typecast. “I don’t have an accent, and my training [as an actor] was wide-ranging,” she explains. “I’ve probably played more British and Irish characters [than Latino characters]…. But I’ve never done [Federico García] Lorca or any of the other big Spanish playwrights.”

Nancy Ticotin, as Gloria Fajardo in the First National Tour of <em>On Your Feet!</em>, dances with (from left) Joseph Rivera, Adriel Flete, Jeremey Adam Rey, and Hector Maisonet (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

Nancy Ticotin, as Gloria Fajardo in the First National Tour of On Your Feet!, dances with (from left) Joseph Rivera, Adriel Flete, Jeremey Adam Rey, and Hector Maisonet (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

Cuervo says three-time Oscar®-winning actress Meryl Streep was a year ahead of her at Yale, but Brooklyn, NY-born 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Drama-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein was a contemporary and a friend. Indeed, Cuervo originated the role of Holly Kaplan, Wasserstein’s alter ego, in the inaugural Off-Broadway production of Wasserstein’s first play, Uncommon Women and Others, shortly after moving to New York in 1977. Cuervo won a 1978 OBIE Award for her performance.

“The Estefans … are really down-to-earth people,” says Cuervo. “They’re very generous, and they’re not ‘star-jerks.'”

She adds, “The cast for On Your Feet! is Latin from all of the Latin cultures…. Our leading man [Mauricio Martínez] is Mexican, and he had to learn a Cuban accent,” Cuervo says with a smile.

Cuervo says, “The dances are spectacular…. They’re a mix of Cuban dances and show dance, and they just don’t stop the whole night.”

She adds, “On Your Feet! is great entertainment. It has a beautiful and important message to tell this country at this time. The show is very family friendly…. There are only one or two [bad] words, and they go by fast….”

In reviewing the show’s original Broadway production, The New York Times critic raved, “The very air in the room seems to vibrate in this fresh, flashy and undeniably crowd-pleasing new musical. Resist if you dare!” The Associated Press reviewer characterized the show as “Infectiously fun with genuine heart! If you aren’t humming a Gloria Estefan hit when you leave the theater, it might be time to check your pulse.” And The Wall Street Journal declared, “With smoking-hot choreography and a tear-it-up band, the rhythm will almost certainly get you!”

Mauricio Martinez and Christie Prades (center) star as Emilio and Gloria (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

Mauricio Martinez and Christie Prades (center) star as Emilio and Gloria (photo © by Matthew Murphy)

SECOND OPINION: Dec. 30th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Jennifer Bringle: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article192201954.html; Dec. 27th Raleigh, NC WRAL.com preview by Kathy Hanrahan for “What’s on Tap”: http://www.wral.com/-on-your-feet-tackles-timely-american-dream-/17197557/; and Oct. 6th New York, NY Playbill.com preview by Andrew Gans: http://www.playbill.com/article/national-tour-of-on-your-feet-opens-october-6.

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents ON YOUR FEET! THE STORY OF EMILIO & GLORIA ESTEFAN at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 2-4, 8 p.m. Jan. 5, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 6, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $30 and up, plus taxes and fees. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.

BOX OFFICE:

DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), tickets@dpacnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/2336216.

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.

SHOW: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/on-your-feet and https://www.facebook.com/events/254246605092310/.

VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG78FylnHg0.

DPAC NEWS RELEASE: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/four-blockbuster-shows-on-sale-sept-16-at-10-am-on-your-feet-les-miserables-the-color-purple-and-waitress.

DPAC‘S 2017-18 “TEN GREAT YEARS” SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: https://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2017-18 and https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/announcing-suntrust-broadway-at-dpac-2017-2018-season.

THE TOUR: https://onyourfeetmusical.com/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/on-your-feet-514072, https://www.facebook.com/OnYourFeetTheMusical, https://www.twitter.com/OnYourFeetBway, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Your_Feet!#U.S._Tour, and https://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=OnYourFeetBway.

TOUR CAST: https://onyourfeetmusical.com/cast-and-creative/#tour_cast.

TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: https://onyourfeetmusical.com/cast-and-creative/#creative.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions.

PARKING: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6th, performance.

OTHER LINKS:

On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan (2015 Broadway musical): https://onyourfeetmusical.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/on-your-feet-497819 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Your_Feet! (Wikipedia).

Emilio Estefan (music and lyrics): http://www.emilioestefanjr.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/emilio-estefan-497825 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0261555/ (Internet Movie Database), http://www.facebook.com/EmilioEstefan (Facebook page), http://www.twitter.com/emilioestefanjr (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilio_Estefan (Wikipedia).

Gloria Estefan (music and lyrics): http://gloriaestefan.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/gloria-estefan-497824 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002065/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/gloriaestefan (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/GloriaEstefan (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_Estefan (Wikipedia).

Alexander Dinelaris (book): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/alexander-dinelaris-406393 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5409486/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/alex.dinelaris (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/alexdinelaris (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Dinelaris (Wikipedia).

Alma Cuervo (actress who plays Consuelo): http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/5024 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/alma-cuervo-72022 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0191119/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alma_Cuervo (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing robertm748@aol.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail robertm748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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