Her Soul I’ll Carry Forever In My Heart…

As I write this, it’s been just over 24 hours since the announcement.

On Your Feet! is ending its Broadway run on August 20, 2017.

Now, I know in the midst of everything going on in this world – Manchester, Portland, Kabul, Syria…and the list goes on and on – a show closing is a minor thing. As Ana reminded us all in an InstaStory last night, “No one has died. We will all go on to new things.” And yes, we all know there is going to be a tour.

But at the same time… Yes, we know that nothing lasts forever – especially Broadway shows. Yes, OYF has had a good run of almost two years. But yes, we’ve also all been in the house when the back of the orchestra was far from full – hell, a couple of weeks ago I won the ticket lottery and my seat was FRONT ROW. Side, sure, but front row. Yes, we had all heard the rumblings and rumors for a while, the “if we’re still open” comments from time to time at the stage door. I think deep down we all suspected it was coming.

But it was still one of those moments when the Facebook posts and Tweets started coming from the cast – I was sitting on a bench at my dojang before class and I know I audibly gasped. It felt like a gut punch.

I waited until I got off the subway and was walking home to put on the cast recording on my iPod, and I made it to “Anything For You” before I lost it.

Seriously – ALL the feels.

And yes, we know that no one has died, but it is a kind of a death for those of us who have come to love the show, for whom it’s a safe space to turn. We need the freedom to have all the feels we’re all still working through.

I had no idea what I was getting into on February 19, 2016 when I won the ticket lottery for OYF. I’m not normally a jukebox musical kind of girl, but I quickly discovered this was no jukebox musical. It’s the story of two people who fought for what they believed in and for the life they wanted – and made it happen. The story of triumphing over adversity – in more than one way. It’s Gloria and Emilio’s story, yes. But underlying everything is the story of every immigrant who has come to this country to seek a better life, of anyone who has a dream and the courage to pursue it, of anyone who has faced obstacles and overcome them.

I found a familia that I never knew I had – or needed. I’ve made friends. I’ve learned about this world and about myself – I traveled to Cuba partly because of this show, of wanting to see, to feel, to experience that land. The show has made theatre feel like a safe place for me again after experiences with another show had made it feel not so safe. It’s a haven where I can laugh, cry, sing, dance…just BE.

I’ll see it on Sunday for the first time since the announcement – already planned to celebrate my belt test on Saturday – and I’m sure it’ll be emotional. I’m seeing it on my birthday – a month before closing – and I’m sure it’ll be emotional.

But I won’t be there on August 20. I will be in another place of peace, happiness, and comfort on that day – I’ll be at the beach with my family. I’ll celebrate the show in my own way that day. My last time with the show on Broadway will be August 17 – the night before I leave. On a slightly selfish note, I’m kind of glad my last time won’t be THE last time. But at the same time, another part of me would love to be among this familia on the last day in person. You can bet I’ll be there in spirit.

I’ve discussed the show at length before, and I’m sure I’ll do a farewell post, but tonight I just want to say Thank you. Thank you Emilio and Gloria Estefan for allowing your story to be told in this way. Thank you Emily for the beautiful song you wrote with your mom for this – “If I Never Got To Tell You”. ALL the feels!! Thank you to the cast – Ana, Ektor, Eddy and Kevin, Alexandria and Fabi (and the “new” girls Madison and Amaris), Doreen, Christie, Linedy, Genny-Lis, Karmine, Yasmin, Emmanuel, David, Angelica, Natalie, Alexia, Henry, Nina, Omar, Hector, Liz, Jeremy, Eliseo, Jose, Julius, Jennifer, Marcos, Martin, Brett, Eric, Lee, Andrea, Luis, and Carlos for weaving this magic every night and for those who know who they are, for making me feel like part of the familia. And thank you to my other Feeties – even if I’m not always involved in everything you know I love you!

The title of this post is taken from “Mi Tierra” and it’s the most honest thing I can think of to say about this little show. I will carry her soul forever in my heart.

PLEASE do yourself a favor – if you’re in or around NYC, go see this show before it closes; and if you’re anywhere near a city where it will tour, go and see it.

Conga forever!!!

If I Never Got To Tell You… Music and Its Power

Saturday morning I decided to enter the ticket lottery for “On Your Feet!” because I was really wanting to see it (even though I had tickets for Sunday, I knew it was going to be an emotional show (more than normal)…more on that later). The lottery had reportedly been tougher to win last week (that’s a good thing) and reportedly the seats were pretty much all in the mezzanine (a VERY good thing because it means the orchestra is pretty much sold!!). I myself had lost Thursday and Friday night. So I really didn’t know if I was going to win.

But I did!

And yes, my seat was in the mezzanine, but it was GREAT to see the theatre almost filled!!! (This amazing show DESERVES full houses every performance!!!)

The cast was on fire, and I was in my happy place! When it was over, I started down to the stage door area.

As I turned my phone from airplane mode to on, it popped up.

A CNN notification.

“At least 25 injured in an explosion in New York”

And nothing would load on my phone! The Marriott Marquis is notoriously iffy on cell service in certain places because of all the steel. Intellectually I know that, but I was freaking out trying to get information.

New York CITY? Most likely since they didn’t give a city. But where? How close was I to whatever was going on?

Finally it loaded and I saw the details as we had them then – in Chelsea, so close, but not right there. I immediately left a message on my mom’s cell phone and my parents’ home phone that I was fine and had not been in the immediate area. And recorded an instagram video to post to let friends know. And posted on Facebook that I was ok – as well as responding to some posts either to my wall or tags.

Doreen Montalvo, one of my favorite people in the world, was one of the first ones out. She’s on as Gloria’s mother through October 2, and I LOVE her in this role. She has really been allowed to make it hers when she is on, and it’s wonderful to watch her. Everyone was all “Please be safe” and she was no exception. As we were talking and she was talking to the people next to me, she took my hand and squeezed it. That might have been when a fire truck was turning the corner and honking at someone and I jumped about a mile in the air, but I’m not positive. Then as she was leaving saying she was walking home and not getting on the subway, she hugged me tight and made me promise to tweet when I got home safely.

A little later, Luis Salgado – one of the uber-talented dancers who is first and foremost an amazing human being (who am I kidding? pretty much everyone involved with this show is an amazing human being!!) – came out and came over and hugged me close. We were chatting and he noticed some friends next to me, so he excused himself for a moment to talk with them, then asked if they wanted to go backstage. They started to go, and he looked at me and said “You’re coming too!” So in we all trooped. Ektor Rivera was taking pictures with Ana Villafañe and her guests in the entrance area, but Luis grabbed him to come to the stage with us. It was super cool to see the theatre from that angle. Plus seeing them and getting their hugs really helped to calm me down. They are awesome!!

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Ektor then “kidnapped” me to give me my art. In addition to being a great actor and singer (and all-around fantastic human being) he is an amazing visual artist! Check his work out here!! And I had bought a reproduction – my first grown-up art!! He’d emailed me it was ready and I’d said I would get it at the theatre. Plan was Sunday, but he had it on Saturday. So back we went to his dressing room for the art.

I got the grand tour too – including seeing “the shorts” (if you know the play…or the story of Gloria and Emilio’s first meeting that makes sense) and we chatted for a few minutes. Including Ektor helping translate something Ana says in the date scene that my friend and I could never figure out how to spell to see what it means. Then we headed out.

Ana came out a few minutes later, and it’s always great to see her and chat even if she’s on vocal rest and mouthing the words. We joked about how the bartender had made me sing for my drink that night – I selected “Bojito Is Gonna Get You”, and he said “Ok, but you have to sing…” I protested and said Ana does it so much better than I ever could. But finally gave in and sang the first bit a la the show opening. I think it kind of surprised him that I actually did it. But I still had to pay for it!! 😛

I headed home – I took the 7 to the G so that I would avoid the area where the bomb – and then a second device – was. But it took a while to calm down – the swing from nearly hysterical to being super happy and all warm and fuzzy inside, then being hyper aware of everything on my way home really had me worked up.

Sunday I got up, went to Taekwondo, came home and showered and got ready and headed into Manhattan (again via the G and 7) for dinner at Havana Central and the evening performance of On Your Feet! – which was going to be Luis’ last show with the company. I’d purposely bought A2 because I knew I’d be up close AND I was on the aisle so I could conga with David Baida because I promised him I would! And it was fun!! 🙂

The cast was totally fired up, and the show was amazing!! There are some spots I can pretty much predict I’ll tear up every time and others surprise me. Obviously with it being a musical those moments are usually part of the music. But not always – one scene early on between Gloria’s mother and father – who at that point was in a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis and other complications probably due to his service in Vietnam – completely got to me because of the way Doreen and Eliseo were interacting. Beautiful.

The full-out waterworks for me started in Act 2 when Ana sings “Famous” which is the transition into the bus accident (hey, this is a true story…no need for a spoiler warning here!). Following that, in the hospital scene, there is a duet between Gloria’s mother and Emilio that is always beautiful and moving. It is the one original number in the show, and it was co-written by Gloria and her and Emilio’s daughter Emily. The show’s story ends prior to Emily’s birth, but this is a super cool way for her to be “in” the show.

The song’s title is “If I Never Got To Tell You”, and as it suggests, it’s about saying all the things we mean to but never do for whatever reason thinking we’ll always have more time. But as the accident all too painfully demonstrated, you never really truly know. In the song, Gloria’s mom (also named Gloria) sings to her as they have been estranged, Emilio sings both to their son Nayib, and to Gloria, then Gloria’s mom who has been even more estranged from Emilio sings to him as they realize how close they have come to never having another tomorrow.

And the true-life events of the night before in NYC also served as a reminder of that.

And so yes – full-on waterworks. But really in a healing and cathartic way. Which to me is the beauty of music – something as simple as a melody and words can combine to say everything you’re feeling, to break you wide open and let healing light flow over the broken pieces. “If I Never Got To Tell You” is always an emotional point in the show, but last night it was special. Different. Just…MORE.

And I really couldn’t stop crying from that point on – through “I Don’t Want To Lose You Now”, “Reach”, and of course “Coming Out of the Dark”.

And weirdly – but not really given the day – the Mega Mix – the dance party that closes the show and serves as curtain call. I thought I was going to be ok, but I saw tears streaming down Luis’ cheeks and it was all over for me then. He is such a talented dancer and just a warm, kind-hearted human. It’s going to be really weird seeing the show without him in it. But I know the future holds great things for him.

This is kind of rambling I realize. But it’s my attempt at a big huge thank you…

  • To Gloria and Emilio Estefan for sharing their story, their lives, and indeed their hearts with all of us in so many ways. THANK YOU for On Your Feet!!
  • To Gloria and Emily Estefan for writing such a beautiful piece of music in “If I Never Got To Tell You” that simply says it all – and was everything I needed last night.
  • To Ana Villafañe, Ektor Rivera, and the whole cast of On Your Feet! for the magic you make happen in telling a story that is Gloria and Emilio’s but also a little bit of all of us when we struggle to stay true to ourselves and succeed no matter what.
  • To Doreen Montalvo for being awesome and being there on Saturday night!! ❤ ❤
  • To my friends I’ve met through the show! Y’all are awesome!!
  • And finally to Luis Salgado. You have always had a smile and a strong hug for me. I know I tweeted it, but it deserves saying again… They say you never forget your first…so THANK YOU for taking me on my first backstage visit and for bringing light into a pretty dark and scary night Saturday… Thank you for the smiles from stage – and for your kind words all the time. Your son is super lucky to have you for a dad!! Big hugs to him and your wife too!!

There are never any guarantees in life. Don’t lose tomorrow if you need to tell someone what they mean to you. Do it. Now.

Sending love and light to all…

The power of music.

As far back as I can remember, music has been a huge part of my life.

Church choir. Recorder. School chorus. Band. Piano lessons. Handbells.

For the longest time I thought I wanted to become a middle school band director. For various reasons I went a different path, but music has continued to be a part of my life.

The power a song can have to encourage you. To take you back to another time. To push you forward. To speak to and for you. It’s really unlike anything else for me.

For me, music is such a part of my life I am not always consciously aware of it until something brings it to the forefront.

Such was the case when I first went to see “On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan” back in February.

I was aware that the show was happening. I’d seen the ads on buses and around town. But I will freely admit that I’m not typically one for “jukebox musicals”, so I never really looked into it, assuming that’s what it was.

I would soon find out how wrong I was.

It was during our Presidents’ Week break, and I decided to pretty much enter almost every show lottery. “On Your Feet!” was the first one to close and notify – I had won a ticket and had 60 minutes to purchase it. Which meant I was figuring that I wouldn’t win anything else if I bought it. (A pretty safe bet with “Hamilton” but not necessarily so much with the others.)

Given that it was kind of a random entry, I asked my friends on FaceBook if any of them had seen it and if so what they thought. One of my friends who sees pretty much everything said that she had enjoyed it more than she anticipated, so I bought the ticket and went.

And was hooked from the opening scenes.

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It is not your “typical” jukebox musical at all. Yes, it is all (with one exception – which is a new song co-written by Gloria and her daughter Emily) music from Gloria and the Miami Sound Machine’s catalog, but rather than building a story around the songs (a la “Mamma Mia!”) the songs are interwoven into the story of Gloria and Emilio’s life. And while the story is specific to them, the overarching themes are universal.

Gloria is brilliantly played by Ana Villafañe.

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She sounds uncannily like Gloria, especially when singing. I’ve heard more than one person say “I could have sworn she was lip-synching”.

The first Emilio I was was Josh Segarra

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who was great.

Emilio is currently played by Ektor Rivera

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who has brought a whole other dimension to Emilio.

As the title implies, the story is theirs – obviously some things are tweaked for time and dramatic reasons, but some things have been brought in directly from their story.

The shorts. That’s all that needs to be said there. 😛

I had not realized how much of their music catalog WAS the soundtrack to my life from middle school on up. Some songs I hadn’t even realized WERE Gloria’s at the time, and some are completely new to me.

The book was written by Alexander Dinelaris, and Gloria has said in interviews about the process that she gave him full use of the music catalog. And it is really amazing how well songs from different parts of her career fit into her and Emilio’s story – obviously “Coming Out of the Dark” (which is set in its context in their lives), but also other songs and other times in their life.

For me, one of the most moving scenes is one with Gloria and her father, who at that point was completely bedridden with what was diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis but was likely a combination of various factors. In pretty much a dream sequence, Fajardo, her father, sings a very early song of hers “When Someone Comes Into Your Life”. Almost invariably this scene brings me to tears because I grew up hearing the story of how the morning after I was born, my dad came to visit my mom and me in the hospital and told my mom he “dreamed about walking [me] down the aisle” (to which my mom said “Let her be a baby!”). I’ve said that if my parents make it up here while the show is running we WILL be coming to see it, but Daddy and I canNOT sit next to each other because it will just be uber waterworks!!

And while the story is specific to them, there are themes that resonate so strongly today… The discrimination that they faced in crossing over from the Latin music scene to the greater music scene in particular. In one scene where this is so apparent, they have been told if they want to cross over, they need to change everything – including their name. Emilio gives an impassioned response about the discrimination he and his father faced when they came to America and how he has worked and paid his taxes for 15 years finishing with “And you should look very closely to my face. Because whether you know it or not, THIS is what an American looks like!”

And that line has gotten cheers and applause every time I’ve seen the show! And rightly so!

The entire cast is stellar, and the choreography by Sergio Trujillo is authentic and yet his own.

In short, this show has touched me in a way that no show has in a long time. The music moves me, and the story touches me.

This entry was in no way solicited by anyone with the show. It’s my own doing and my own feeble attempt to say thank you to Gloria and Emilio for sharing their story; to Ana and Ektor and the rest of the cast for bringing the story to life 8 times a week and pouring their hearts and souls into it – and for opening themselves to the fans of the show. I’ve seen it 8 times so far – yes, most were through the lottery but a couple of them have been regular tickets (as are a couple of times coming up). That’s how much I believe in the show. (And trust me – 8 times is NOTHING compared to some!!) The crowd at the stage door is as varied as they come – in age and in cultural background. You don’t have to be Latino/Latina/LatinX to understand or be touched by the story – you just have to be human.

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13686742_10154103679641321_2920275287136795836_nwith Ana and Ektor after the show one night in July

Seriously – if you’re in New York, do yourself a favor and go see this show!! It’s at the Marquis in New York. For information, check the website: On Your Feet!

The rhythm will get you too!