Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Boca Interview: Curtain Call

Gloria Estefan, already the most successful Latin crossover artist in music history, brings the soundtrack of her South Florida-based life to the Broadway stage.

Long before she altered the musical landscape at home and abroad with a sound in perfect rhythm with the multicultural city from which it sprang, Gloria María Milagrosa Fajardo García was just a Miami girl with a story.

She was 2 when her family fled Cuba for South Florida following Castro’s rise to power. Her father, a one-time bodyguard for former Cuban president Batista, would join the CIA-backed paramilitary group that met with disaster at the Bay of Pigs. He later enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent two years in Vietnam. When her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis shortly after returning from duty, Gloria became a caretaker for both him and her younger sister while her mother tried to make ends meet.

As much as she loved music—a cathartic “escape,” she would call it—Gloria couldn’t begin to imagine the life that was about to unfold. That is, until 1975, when the product of an all-girls high school, who had “no social life,” met Emilio Estefan.

Forty years, seven Grammys, one Oscar nomination and a boatload of lifetime achievement awards later, the Miami girl and her remarkable story are headed for Broadway. After a world premiere this summer in Chicago, the new musical based on the life of Gloria Estefan and husband Emilio—“On Your Feet!”—will open Nov. 5 at New York’s Marquis Theatre (previews start Oct. 5).

Estefan, whose work in the 1980s with Miami Sound Machine and later as a solo artist has resulted in sales of some 100 million records worldwide, calls the play a “love story.”

“It’s my love of Emilio (whose résumé as a music producer includes 19 Grammys), my love of this country and my love of music,” she says.

Estefan, 57, took time out of her schedule to elaborate on those sentiments withBoca Raton.

Has the process of working on the play put you in a reflective place about your life?

This has been a three-year process; that’s when we first started writing. Having to sit and analyze and discuss and remember things we had put out of our memory? … We’ve been so busy living our life that we really haven’t had time to look and reflect. …

Mainly, I go, “Damn, we’ve done a lot.” … But it feels like a split second ago, not [40 years].

How do you go about selecting the moments in your life with Emilio that will translate to the stage and serve the music?

Perhaps it’s fortunate that we have over three decades of music to draw upon. Alexander [Dinelaris, recent winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for “Birdman” and author of the work on which the play is based] does use the hits, but he also reaches back and uses some unexpected songs that unexpected characters will be singing. So it really does seem like the songs were written for the story, which is the hardest thing when you’re doing a musical—about a catalog of music. … We had multiple meetings [with Alex] where we just talked; he spoke to Emilio and my mom for countless hours. Then he sent me the first draft—and I was blown away.

His [concern, early on] was that there was no conflict, which you need in a play. But there is. My mom is the conflict—very much so. And I’ve warned her about it.

For more on Gloria Estefan, pick up the July/August issue of Boca Raton magazine.

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