The rhythm is gonna get you when On Your Feet! opens November 5 at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre. Directed by Tony winner Jerry Mitchell with a book by Oscar winner Alexander Dinelaris, the bio-musical uses Gloria Estefan’s songs to celebrate her and husband Emilio’s life and legacy. But how can you fill her conga shoes?
Enter Ana Villafañe, an up-and-coming Cuban-American actress who, like Estefan, grew up in Miami. “When she walked in the audition room, there was just this thing about her,” Estefan recalls. The problem? Estefan’s an alto and Villafañe’s a soprano. “She didn’t sound like me, but I didn’t care. She drew us in with her performance—and she blew me away with her acting. Culturally, she understands where I came from. And she’s the height people think I am.”
Despite physical similarities, don’t expect a Las Vegas-style impersonation. “I told Ana I didn’t want her to be my clone,” Estefan says. “I want her to interpret me, as an actor would with any character. But she asks a lot of questions and watches me like a hawk. The other day I said, ‘Put down the magnifying glass, woman! You’re burning a hole into my brain!’”
Next, October 2015.