Madison College hosted a Q&A with the cast of “ON YOUR FEET!” for a pre-show event with 150 middle and high school students from the Latinx community last Friday evening.
“ON YOUR FEET!” is a musical about the true story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan depicting their careers in a feel-good display of culture and talent. The production boasts a 98 percent Latino cast first premiering in Chicago in 2015. It has gone on to see a Dutch adaption as well as an international tour. Overture Center in downtown Madison hosted a week-long run of the touring company.
Parents, grandparents and students from a variety of age groups filled up a lecture hall at Madison College playing a brief but meaningful questionnaire game focused around education.
Met with a round of applause, the cast of “ON YOUR FEET!” made their way to the front of the room where they all went on to introduce themselves. Each member hailed from a different Latin country with their own take on the value of the show as well as their gratefulness for their roles.
Most of the talking points were led by an Overture representative and circled around the lifestyle of a Broadway actor, what led them to their craft and advice for students in the audience interested in entertainment.
Christie Pradese, who plays Gloria Estefan, touched on her “Dollar and a dream mentality” as being the core value responsible for her success. Pradese recalled her early inspiration into acting through movie musicals and her unrelenting hustle that earned her a scholarship to study journalism in New York.
Ensemble member Michelle Alves stressed the satisfaction she gets from this show. “We love what we do, we live for this, to see people smilingevery time we walk on stage, this is why I do this, it makes it all worth it,” she said. “It makes (the audience) forget what they are going through, it literally changes their lives.”
As the floor moved to questions from the audience, most students were either too shy or overwhelmed to ask any questions to the cast. The same cannot be said for their grandparents. One Cuban grandmother stood out asking the lead actors “When you study the character, what process is that, to get into character?”
Ektor Estefan, who plays Emilio Estefan, shared his thoughts on being able to depict his “dream crossover role.”
“I couldn’t think of a better human to portray than the man I’m playing,” he said. Both Prades and Estefan discussed how they prepared for their roles by spending time with their real-life counterparts. From going out to dinner to watching them in their studios, the two lead actors agreed that they were able to get into these roles by seeing how their counterparts talk, walk and interact with each other in real life.
Padres also stressed her geographical similarity to Gloria Esteban having grown up in a Cuban household living in “the same North Cuban neighborhood, which is Miami, and I feel lucky to have those instincts to tap into like speaking Spanglish. She is very casual and personable like that.”
The cast also offered advice for students in the audience.
“Whatever makes you happy is what you should do. Your parents will support you if you’re doing what truly makes you happy,” said one ensemble member. But in that same breath, a word of caution was shared: “This business is tricky, it’s important to remember your ego can get in the way, and you have to put that aside for your soul to be happy.”
On a less serious note, the Overture MC asked the what their favorite part of Madison was. Ironically, they all said in unison “The weather, we have been touring in places like Cleveland and going through winter for the last four months.”
In touch with Wisconsin hospitality, Ektor Estefan joked, “People are so friendly here, I live in New York where you don’t look at someone and during my jog yesterday people waved at me and I was confused.”
As things came to an end the Christie Padres left the with the closing statement on the show saying, “You get to know Gloria on a much deeper level. People expect this concert feel, and you get that, but you also get a real story with family tribulations. You leave with a respect for the main characters as individuals.”