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Gloria Estefan Calls 'On Your Feet!' A Timely Message About Immigrants

‘My fans,” Gloria Estefan shares during a phone interview, “know me like Emilio knows me. For decades, they’ve been listening to my innermost being.”

Apparently, fans think the biographical jukebox musical about the husband and wife team, titled “On Your Feet! — The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan,” has been thoroughly successful in capturing her life for the musical theater stage:

“Our fans are going back repeatedly to see it. They follow the tour around the country. Some of them went to Holland when it opened there.”

Estefan was in Holland herself “making sure the company knew who my family was, making sure the comedy was translated properly. Nobody in Holland is going to react to a line like ‘You drive a station wagon?’” (Besides the U.S. tour, which stops at the Bushnell in Hartford June 19 to 24, there are plans for “On Your Feet!” to be seen in Japan, Germany, and France, and a London production will open in the summer of 2019. Christie Prades and Mauricio Martinez play the Estefans.)

Connecting with the audience, Estefan knows, is worth the effort of going over every line of dialogue.

“We try to check in with the show whenever we can. We care a lot about the message being sent with this show. We want audiences to make an emotional connection.”

She talks of meeting students of her mother, who taught public school in Dade County, Fla. She tells of one man who says “On Your Feet!” inspired him to believe in himself more, work harder and expand his business.

“The timing of this show is crucial for what it says about immigrants,” Estefan says. “I came to this country when I was 2. I grew up in this country. We want this show to share that sense of community and connectivity.”

The show features such uplifting Estefan hits as “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” “Conga,” “Coming Out of the Dark” and the song that gives the musical its title, “Get On Your Feet.”

Estefan has toured the world as a pop star, including multiple concerts in Hartford over the years, but she also has a taste for musical theater. She has nothing but respect for theater performers.

“I can’t believe what they do, eight times a week. The two leads are in every scene except two, and those two are very small scenes. The arguments they have in this show can be harder on your voice than the singing! They keep adding dates to the tour; I don’t know how they’ll survive.”

What are her theater tastes?

“The first show I ever saw in Miami, I scrounged up my money to get to the Coconut Grove and see ‘Equus’” — Peter Shaffer’s psychological drama about a boy that blinds horses. “I also saw ‘Hair’ in Miami.’ I love ‘Gypsy’ — I’ve seen it with four different leads, including Patti LuPone and my friend Bernadette Peters. I just saw Bernadette in ‘Hello, Dolly’ as well. ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ blew me away. I just love theater in every way. I’ve been taking my kids to the theater ever since they could sit still.”

Estefan sees “On Your Feet!” as an ideal way for her to share her inspiring life story. The show covers her rise to fame as she tries to balance her education and family issues, including her father’s battle with multiple sclerosis and some difficult times with her mother. It also covers the severe spinal injury Estefan endured when her tour bus collided with a truck in 1989. Estefan’s recovery from the accident and her return to the stage is a big part of the second act.

Estefan helped choose the creative team and cast for the show: “We had the final decision on everything.” The script is by Alexander Dinelaris, the “Birdman” screenwriter who was represented at The Bushnell earlier this season with his stage adaptation of “The Bodyguard.”

Seven of her band members from Miami Sound Machine are with the show, which has also enlisted two of Estefan’s music directors.

“People are getting a very legitimate sound of Miami Sound Machine,” she says.

On Your Feet! — The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan plays June 19 to 24 at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. . Tickets are $22.50 to $118.50. 860-987-5900 and bushnell.org.

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