Rhythm Getting Stronger

Rhythm Getting Stronger

Estefan’s music will have fans on their feet


You can’t portray a entire life on stage in two and a half hours, no matter how good a writer you are. You can, though, tell a story that offers context in an entertaining and meaningful way, creating openings for connecting to another person through learning his experience. Even fans of their music may not realize the extraordinary life Gloria and Emilio Estefan have lived, made all the more incredible by the obstacles the two have overcome. And friend and collaborator Clay Ostwald — keyboardist of the Estefans’ band, Miami Sound Machine, for more than three decades — says the Broadway version of the Estefans’ story gets it absolutely right.

Courtesy photo
Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s inspiring true story and infectious music come to the Walton Arts Center stage Dec. 4-9.

“From the beginning, because Gloria and Emilio were involved in it, they connected with people who were very interested in the priorities they had — which are the music, the choreography, the authenticity of the artistic expression, and having their story represent what they wanted to tell,” Ostwald shares. When “On Your Feet!” was being created for Broadway, the Estefans asked Ostwald to help ensure the music’s authenticity, which led to his serving as the associate music director during the show’s Broadway run and as music director for the tour.

“Gloria wanted it to be done as close to what we did in our careers as possible, so the music is done as it was recorded for the most part. And the dancing, too — our choreographer, Sergio Trujillo, went to Cuba and did a lot of investigating on how to show the authentic folkloric, Cuban dancing along with, of course, the pop and pop/Latin music that everyone’s used to hearing.”

Both Cuban immigrants, the husband-and-wife team went on to make Gloria the most successful crossover artist of all time. And though the musical climate is immensely different today than it was when Miami Sound Machine and Gloria Estefan became international sensations, or even at the peak of her musical popularity, Ostwald points to the universal themes of the couple’s story that make it timeless.

“Every night when we finish the show, including the very first time we did it, we felt this great [sense of] ‘we’ve got a show that the audience will respond to, that they’ll relate to, that they can enjoy, that they can have a great time, they can get up and dance and party.’ But they’ll also go home being a little inspired about the underlying message of cultural acceptance and understanding and celebrating people’s different cultures and their artistic expressions of them. I think it’s a strong message.

“The immigration story is a big part of the story, in terms of the climate now in our media in the United States,” Ostwald continues. “But really, the immigration story is an American dream story that’s perpetually interesting to people, and it matters to everybody. No matter where you are from, your family eventually was an immigrant to the United States. And the priority on that hits home no matter where we do the show or for who, because it’s a universal message.”

It’s not just their journey to America that makes the Estefans inspiring. “On Your Feet!” takes the audience back to the horrific bus crash that nearly killed Gloria, following the couple’s determined climb from what felt like rock bottom. It’s “a love story to this country, our love story, a love story to music,” Gloria said ahead of the show’s debut. So it might be an emotional roller coaster, but audiences can surely expect that the “Rhythm Is Going To Get You,” and you’ll be dancing out of the theater.



‘On Your Feet!

The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical’

WHEN — 8 p.m. Dec. 7; 2 & 8 p.m. Dec. 8; 2 p.m. Dec. 9

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $38-$77

INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org



Back On Their Feet

Walton Arts Center, KNWA and Dress for Success NWA are joining forces to help women in Northwest Arkansas get back on their feet. Guests are encouraged to bring new or gently used women’s winter coats, purses and professional shoes when they come see “On Your Feet!”

The donations go directly to the Northwest Arkansas Chapter of Dress for Success. The international nonprofit with offices in Rogers helps women break the cycle of poverty by providing programs and professional attire so that they can secure employment and a network of support and training to help them succeed in the workplace.

Donations can also be dropped off during lobby hours at WAC: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and noon-4 p.m. on Saturday.

Categories: Theater