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Interview with Arianna Rosario and Omar Lopez-Cepero

Meet the real-life married couple playing Gloria and Emilio Estefan this month at The MUNY!

On Your Feet, the internationally acclaimed bio-musical based on the lives of Gloria and Emilio Estefan is coming to The MUNY this summer in its regional theatre debut!

Based on the inspiring true story of the queen of Latin pop, Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio, On Your Feet! is a universal sensation that shows what can happen when two people believe in their talent, music and one another. Their moving rags-to-riches story features some of the most chart-topping songs of the past quarter-century, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “1-2-3,” “Coming Out of the Dark” and the title hit, “Get On Your Feet.” With this Muny premiere, audiences will leave ready to “Conga!”

I have always loved On Your Feet! the music, the story… It is such a fabulous musical, and what’s really special about it’s debut on The MUNY stage is that power-couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan will be played by real-life married couple Arianna Rosario and Omar Lopez-Cepero! Arianna and Omar have both spent time in On You Feet, both during the show’s Broadway run and national tour, and took the time to sit down with me to chat about returning to the stage, this show, and these roles.

We’re going to be talking a lot about the love story between Gloria and Emilio, but I was wondering if you wanted to share your real-life love story first?

ARIANNA: It’s kind of crazy how we even met, because we’re friends with a lot of the same people, but never had met throughout our careers working in New York. I had gone out on the Cinderella tour, and a good friend of his met me and was like, “Are you, like, dating anyone? Are you interested in that?” And I was like, “Well, we have six months left of tour, so I don’t know if I want to do this when we’re away from New York City and trying to start something long distance.” She was like, “If you want, I have a friend of mine, his name is Omar, he’s in On Your Feet on Broadway, he goes on for Emilio all the time. I think you guys would really get along, your energies… Something about your personality, I just feel like you guys would get along. If you’d like, whenever he goes on, I’ll bring you, and introduce you so there’s no pressure.” I was like, “Okay, let’s think about this in six months, I don’t want to think about it. He’s cute, but I don’t want to think about it!”

OMAR: Well, the funny thing is… So, if you know anything about how Facebook and the algorithms and all that work, if someone searches you, they start to come up on People You May Know. So, she had, I guess, searched my name, so she kept coming up every time on my newsfeed and I was like, “Who is this gorgeous girl I don’t know and we have all these mutual friends.” So I creepily was like, “I want to friend this girl, but I don’t know her, even though we know a lot of the same people.” So I did the millennial thing and I followed her on Instagram and liked some of her photos, and she followed me and liked some of my photos, and I was like “Oh, alright, she’s paying attention.” But I knew that she was on tour, so I knew nothing was really going to happen when someone’s on tour. What was really cool was when I think it’s like, all the stars aligning, when I met one of her friends randomly at a birthday party the night before she came back on tour. He literally, out of nowhere, was like, “Are you still single?” and I was, then he was like, “I just friended her on Facebook for you, so you have to make a move.” I was like, “Oh, that was bold, man!” Funny enough, a couple days later, she came to see someone in the show, in On Your Feet.

ARIANNA: It was a swing in the show who was just on for that week, and I was back in town so I wanted to catch her before I may not be able to see her again.

OMAR: The funny part of the story is that I see her at the stage door, and I was like “Oh, that’s her!” and I was gonna go talk to her, and then she’s standing with two adults that could maybe be her parents. I was like, “That’s an awkward introduction.” So I was like, “I’m going to let that one go for a minute and then I’ll just message her.” So, that’s what I did, I messaged her. We kind of talked back and forth and we planned on making a date on a Tuesday after an early show that evening. I happened to go on for Emilio that night, so I called her, or I messaged her… I can’t remember?

ARIANNA: No, we still hadn’t talked, we hadn’t even talked on the phone.

OMAR: Yes, we’d only messaged! I know, it’s so millennial. So I messaged her and said, “Hey, I know you just came to see the show, but I’m actually going to be on tonight and we had planned to go out after the show, but if you want to see the show again, I’d be happy to get you a ticket.” So the first time we met…

ARIANNA: Was me coming up to the dressing room after the show and being like, “Hi, how are you? It’s nice to meet you.” And he’s like, “Hey, I’m Omar.”

OMAR: I guess we were destined to play Gloria and Emilio.

ARIANNA: Right? But it was… From that moment, like, our first date, we were inseparable. Completely inseparable and I think things moved pretty quickly after that. I think for both of us, like, you had been in a long-term relationship prior, and so had I and I guess there were things with those where we were wanting and knew what we were looking for.

OMAR: We knew what we were looking for.

ARIANNA: I think when we met each other we were like, “Oh yeah, okay. That’s it.”

OMAR: Yeah, we were engaged in like, seven months, eight months? And then we were married in two years.

ARIANNA: And now we’ve been together almost…

OMAR: A little over five years.

ARIANNA: We’ll be married three years this November.

Omar, you were just mentioning how you were On Your Feet before, and Arianna, I know you were in the show before as well. Would you like to share a little bit about those journeys first?

ARIANNA: Yeah, sure! Omar, you had been with the show from the workshop days of it, from the initial development of the show, and stayed with the show through it’s closing on Broadway.

OMAR: Yeah, I had a pretty cool story with the audition for the show. I didn’t really know about the initial readings and things about it. I kind of heard a rumor that there was a new Latin show coming out about Gloria and Emilio, but I didn’t know much about it.

I was doing a show out in Denver called The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which recently just played in New York Off-Broadway. The audition for the workshop was while I was out in Denver, so what I did was I sent in a tape. And that was kind of okay at that point in time, they would somewhat allow tapes, but not like now, with COVID everyone is accepting tapes and stuff, but back then they really encouraged being in the room as theatre is such a personal, live experience. But I sent in a tape. I didn’t hear anything for like a week, a week and a half, and I was like “Okay…” You know, it’s hard to make an impression off of a tape. Then I get a call, and they said “Hey, we’re willing to fly you in to New York on your day off to sing for Gloria and Emilio.” and I was like “What the-?”

So no joke, I flew in on a Monday, showed up at Telsey, the casting office, and it was me and Ana Villafane. No one else was there except the casting director, Jerry Mitchell, Gloria and Emilio. Ana and I were sitting there and it was so odd, I was like “Hi, you’re here for On Your Feet? Okay, cool!” It was so funny because we created a bond, we’re such buds now just simply from that day. It was just so awkward to be in a waiting room like that.

It was really cool to be a part of the original development of a show. I’ve been very fortunate to be part of a couple of those things and to me it’s the most rewarding part of the theatre creative experience, to kind of put your stamp on something. So yeah, it’s been a dream come true to be a part of this show and to be associated with it and to create the relationships and friendships that I’ve made. And now, having to play opposite her is like a dream. She came in… You can tell your story.

ARIANNA: I was doing Cats on Broadway while we were dating at the beginning. At the time, I think it was a year into the run of Cats, there was a role that came available in On Your Feet to cover the singers and Gloria, which is what Christie (Prades) had done, who ended up playing Gloria on the tour.

OMAR: It was like an advanced standby. Basically a standby that also covered some other tracks.

ARIANNA: I was like, “Okay, maybe this is my chance to finally audition for this show.” I had seen it at that point so many times because I went to see him in it. I went into the audition and it ended up being me and one other person and I was like, “Oh, okay!” and ended up getting it and then joining the show. It was kind of funny cause we were like, “Oh, we finally get to do a show together!” and he left the second I got there to go do Molly Brown at The MUNY. I was like, “Alright, we’ll get to do the show when you come back!” I was in the show with him and it was great because we finally had the same day off. We were on opposite days off when I was in Cats, so it was like passing ships in the night for a while.

OMAR: She had doubles on the weekends…

ARIANNA: I had doubles on your day off.

OMAR: So that was tough for us.

ARIANNA: So I joined the show there and then we both went out on the tour, and then now!

OMAR: But we only did the show together once!

ARIANNA: Even though we’d both gone on a lot separately…

OMAR: We’ve each gone on over sixty times separately -

ARIANNA: But only together once! So doing this at The MUNY right now, I’m like “We get a whole seven shows together!” It’s so cool!

OMAR: And we get to kind of make it our own, because it’s a new direction, a new choreographer… And there’s something really special about The MUNY. I’ve been very lucky to work there two times and it’s just a really unique space. It’s outdoors, the show starts as the sun is setting, it’s this massive outdoor amphitheatre, there’s twelve thousand seats, it looks like a football stadium. The stage is over a hundred feet wide. It’s gonna be amazing. I’m so excited for her.

ARIANNA: I think the concert moments are going to feel like a concert.

OMAR: It’s gonna feel like a Gloria concert. I won’t have to act when I’m beaming with pride. It’s going to be cool, I’m very excited.

Were you fans of Gloria Estefan before coming on board with On Your Feet for the first time? Did you learn anything new about her while doing the show?

ARIANNA: I think I knew a lot of the basic sort of things. I knew she was Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine, that she started off with The Miami Sound Machine because my parents had listened to her, because I was a little bit younger when she was in her prime. I knew about her accident, I remember, even as a kid, seeing those headlines on TV and in the news.

I think what I learned going through the show is just a bit more about her personality and her drive and how funny she is as a person. I think it’s the more personal things. Not Gloria Estefan, the icon that we get to see or we know, it’s like Gloria Estefan the person and who she is as a mother, as a daughter, as a sister, as a wife. Those kinds of things were interesting for me to find through doing the show.

OMAR: I agree. I definitely remember listening to their music growing up. My sister used to choreograph numbers to Gloria Estefan albums in the living room when she was doing her talent shows.

It was very interesting to kind of see the humanity and the personal aspect of these icons. We see them as these huge mega stars who sold out arenas, and have been so successful, but they’re really just normal, fun, jokey people and kind hearted, and shy at times. It’s really cool to get to know the human beings behind the icons. They were groundbreaking. They broke so many barriers. We talk about it obviously in the show but, so many people said “No, no, no this will never work”. They were such a good combination and I think they represent some of what we have in our relationship, a great partnership where each other’s strengths suit each other. Gloria’s so smart, she’s very very intelligent and savvy, and Emilio is so passionate and hardworking.

I don’t know, I think that we embody some of those things, and it was cool to see how they worked together and how they balance each other. I think that both of them would have been successful individually, but I think what made them who they were was their partnership, and I think that’s the case for us too, at least I hope so.

What are some of the challenges of portraying a real person compared to a fictional character?

ARIANNA: It was important for me to not try to be like an imitation of Gloria Estefan, to not just be like an impersonator trying to be her throughout the entire show. I think it was important for me to find those qualities about her that I can kind of see in myself and pull from that to kind of get her essence. To find what her essence is and move through the show in that way.

I think Gloria was, with any of the girls who played her at any point, was very encouraging of individuality and not trying to play her in a sense? The only thing I think she was, not tough on, but just wanted, was for everyone to stay true to the music and to be able to sing these songs with the true authenticity that they were initially created with.

OMAR: They wrote with such a rhythmic way, and she’s such a deliberate writer. So it was important to her that the music was represented in the way that they had intended it to be and not take any kind of new takes on it, or riff where a riff doesn’t happen, or change a rhythm. She wanted to honour that.

ARIANNA: Yeah, and I think doing a Broadway musical, sometimes you think of these songs being so performative, but a lot of how she wrote… She was an incredible songwriter, and a lot of it is so intimate. Each word has a purpose within the song, and I think that’s important to portray that stuff as authentically as possible.

OMAR: Like you said about the Glorias, every Gloria was different.

ARIANNA: Every Gloria was very different, but every one of them had that… You look at them onstage and you go, “Oh yeah, that’s Gloria.” Like certain mannerisms or certain things that she does. I think each one of us picked certain things like, from the real person and kind of incorporated that into how we created our characters.

OMAR: Gloria herself never wanted to be put in a box, you know what I mean? So they wanted to encourage your individuality and your freedom and your voice and expression. I think that was represented in all the girls that stepped onstage and represented her.

As Emilio, he’s such a funny, charismatic… Jerry Mitchell called him like, “the Latin Santa Claus”, he’s just jolly and happy. So I had a lot of fun playing with that, I mean, I think I’m naturally a jokester, you can ask my sister, I drive her crazy. There’s something in that Latin culture in that, and I think that’s what keeps them young and fresh and energetic, because they’re vivacious, they have an energy for life. That was fun to play with, and playing with the accent too, for me is a lot of fun. I have many family members who still speak like that.

Ironically, we’ve talked about this, growing up it was so commonplace to hear this accent, that I didn’t think it was an accent. It was just common to me. Then friends of mine, I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, friends of mine would imitate something my mom or my dad said and I’d be like, “My mom doesn’t sound like that.” They’re like, “Yeah, she does bro.” I was like, “Really?” and I started to kind of become aware of the accent more and more. It was actually difficult early on for me to speak with the accent because I couldn’t differentiate the way I spoke from the way that my parents or my uncles or even my older brothers and sisters spoke. It was just normal to me. Then as I started to play with it, I was like “Oh my God, I sound like my uncle” or even my brother, my oldest brother. It’s so fun to (demonstrating accent) to play with the accent, and you do all the things and you talk with your hands.

ARIANNA: I think that’s the thing. It’s a big thing for me, anyways. I like to talk with my hands, I’m always talking with my hands. And then that’s also the dancer in me.

OMAR: Honestly, of all the roles that I’ve been lucky enough to play, I think it’s one of the most fun to play. There’s a lot of nuance to it, and the relationship. It’s a great actor’s role, he really is a major part of the narrative and is kind of the driving force. She’s obviously the star, she has to carry the musical elements of the show and a major emotional arc, but I think Emilio is kind of like …

ARIANNA: He’s the rock.

OMAR: Yeah, he’s like the rock, or the tentpole which everything else is built around, which I think is cool.

Now you are both set to star opposite each other in On Your Feet’s regional premiere at the MUNY later this month, where are you at in that process?

ARIANNA: So we had a meeting with our director, I think about a week ago. She wanted to have a meeting to just go over how she was going to make this a little bit different from the stage version we’re kind of used to. So that was a great conversation to kind of go through each number and each scene and just see where we are going to take these characters, especially Gloria’s journey. Something we had talked about was that there’s a level of perfection that Gloria seems to try to achieve throughout the entire show, so it’s how to turn that into more of an arc throughout the show.

OMAR: She talked about how when you’re creating characters for the stage, a lot of the greatest roles and characters that you are gravitated towards are flawed characters, characters that you root for through their flaws. In a lot of ways, Gloria was always in this place of fighting for perfectionism and not showing her flaws.

ARIANNA: It’s how to turn that into a flaw, essentially. So we had that meeting and then we got our scripts and music shortly after. I think what’s great for us is we know the book and the music. The MUNY has a very quick rehearsal process, we have ten days to put the show together, and it’s ten days and then you go straight into the show. I think the hardest thing for me is going to be new choreography with this role because a lot of the music and choreography that we know is so ingrained in my body. So having to just shift and have an open mind for the new choreography, which I’ve heard is incredible, by the way, and new staging for the show as well. I think for us, we’re lucky that we live together because we get to run through a lot of these scenes together and work through the songs. So a lot of the prep work will be done by the time we get to The MUNY. We leave this Sunday to drive out to St. Louis, and then we start rehearsals the following Tuesday on the 10th. It’s fast and furious.

OMAR: Yes, it’s a very fast rehearsal process and I think that’s why they usually cast someone who has done the show, but it’s not always the case. For instance, Natascia Diaz hasn’t done the show before and she’s going to be extraordinary as the mother. I’ve worked with her before and she’s going to be extraordinary. But Alma (Cuervo) who’s playing the grandmother did it on Broadway, and Lee Zarrett who’s playing Phil did it on Broadway. There’s a level of comfort in knowing that a lot of these actors have already done a lot of the groundwork and have been very familiar with the show, so that when we get there it’s really about sharpening the pencil, or sharpening that version of the story that’s being told through the lens of our new director, Maggie Burrows.

ARIANNA: It’s going to be super fast, I know Maggie had mentioned to me like, “We’re planning on doing a full run of the show by the end of your first few rehearsal days.” In four or five days we’re going to be doing a full run of the show.

OMAR: And for her it’s going to be a lot harder because of the choreography. When you’re building a show that’s such a concert moment, there’s so much choreography attached to that storytelling and that music. She’s going to have to remove that part of her brain and then input new information. Luckily she’s a brilliant dancer, that’s how she started out in her career so she’ll have it in two days. Not even a day, she’ll have it in two hours.

We’re excited! I’m very excited to see how the story is interpreted in a different way.

ARIANNA: I am too!

OMAR: And it’s such a different space because it’s such an enormous space.

ARIANNA: And I know they were saying there’s lifts on the stage on The MUNY stage and turntables, so I’m excited to see how those will be implemented into this version of it.

Is there a moment in the show that you are most looking forward to performing? Together or separately or both!

ARIANNA: There are so many… I’m excited, only because William Angulo, he’s our choreographer, had mentioned the way they’re interpreting Wrapped, the surgery dream and that whole sequence. From the bus crash into Wrapped I think I’m excited for that. I don’t know why, because I feel like that’s something that from what I’ve heard it’s going to be very different from what we did on Broadway. So for me, that’s super exciting because I get to sing with you too, just to have this moment with you. It’s a beautiful song, it’s a great song, it’s one of my favourite songs to sing.

OMAR: I think one of my favourite moments…

ARIANNA: I already know what you’re going to say.

OMAR: I have two. Personally and relationship-wise it’s life imitating art, it’s the moment where he watches her sing Coming Out Of The Dark from the side of the stage. For me, I’m going to be watching her as her husband, but also watching her as her husband in the show. That’s going to be really special. Then there’s another part in the show that has great meaning to me, and I’ve already experienced some really amazing moments saying those words. Alex Dinelaris wrote an amazing book.

The scene with Emilio and Gloria and Phil when he says “Change my name? This is not my name to change. It’s my father’s name, it’s my grandfather’s name. The grandfather that I left behind in Cuba so I could come here and build a new life. And for the last fifteen years I’ve worked my ass off and paid my taxes..” I don’t want to give it all away, but he basically says “This is what an American looks like… So change your prejudice because I am an American citizen, I have paid my taxes for fifteen years, I have worked my ass off, and I represent what the American dream is. Change your bias and join me in this endeavour, and if you don’t want to, I’ll do it on my own.” For me that’s so powerful, especially in today’s age with the immigrant story and people trying to come to America to make a better life for themselves and for their families.

My family’s from Puerto Rico but my grandmother is Cuban, and she came before the Castro regime took over, but my mother has never seen Cuba. When she was born it had already become part of the regime and so she’s never been able to go back and that hurts me. I’ve never gone back. I mean, yes we can go back now but the things that are going on in Cuba are sad and we all are wanting to elevate and accentuate their voices so that the world can see what has been happening there for the last sixty years.

It’s wild, and we’ve worked with a few folks from the Island that left when they were younger. Carlos left when he was younger through the lottery but Claudia Mulet left, basically defected and knowing what the struggles those people have gone through and the sacrifices they make to come here and make a better life for themselves, I think it’s something that should be embraced and rewarded. I’m proud to represent that in a theatrical form and to most importantly, represent a Latino story that is not representative of crime or delinquency. It’s a story about the American dream, about working hard, living out your passion, and family, and love. These are the stories that we should be telling.

ARIANNA: And the traditions that even though we’re both American citizens, you have your traditions and customs from Puerto Rico. My family came from the Dominican Republic, so we still have all of those things and it’s in us to pass those onto our kids and for our kids to pass them onto their kids and I think that’s a theme through On Your Feet. You see Gloria from ten years old to thirty-four within the show and how those relationships, her with her community in Miami, and the sacrifices her father made in Cuba but also he was part of the army here and went to Vietnam, and those sacrifices that Gloria’s family made. Their story is fascinating.

OMAR: I think that’s one of the surprises of the show. So many people are familiar with Gloria’s music, and how fun it is and the rhythm, because that’s what they embody as artists. But to get to dive into their story and the humanity of them, and the journey that they’ve gone through to get to where they are I think that’s really the true magic of the show.

ARIANNA: It’s inspiring too because it shows that if they can do it, you can do it. Everything was stacked against them and they were able to overcome everything that they’ve been able to overcome. You’re able to do it as well, or you can try.

OMAR: Lead with passion and lead with heart.

You mentioned this is going to be your first time onstage since the shutdown, how does that feel?

ARIANNA: I have a feeling that I’m probably going to cry once I get into even just the room with everybody else, and hearing everyone sing. We’ve been lucky to get to work a little bit during the pandemic, but nothing onstage, recordings or film. It’s just a whole different experience.

Both of us were in shows that ended up closing because of the pandemic. You were working in Molly Brown in New York and had gotten at least a couple of performances to get into the groove of your run. I was in rehearsals for a show at City Center and it was going to be the premiere of Love Life. It hasn’t been done in seventy years. Victoria Clarke was attached to it and Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Kate Baldwin - It was this huge cast and we were all just super excited to bring this show to New York in a new way and we found out the day we were doing our full designer run. Right after lunch they were like, “So we’re going to run the show, but this will be probably the last time we run the show.” We had to close down, we didn’t even get the chance to step on the stage.

I’m super excited to get to bring this show, that this is the show we’re coming back with and it’s a story of celebration and love. A lot of our friends are a part of this, so it’s kind of this big homecoming back to the stage.

OMAR: It really is a dream come true. I’ve said it before but this year’s been tough. We even questioned if we should shift and pivot into other careers or other aspects of the career or the business. It’s definitely put a lot of things in perspective. It’s a tough industry to begin with, it has many highs and many lows.

For us to really commit to what we love and to know that this is the path that we’re supposed to be on and that we’re doing it together, then to have the opportunity to come back to the stage opposite each other playing these roles, telling this type of story at this venue, that has such a beautiful place in my heart and has given me major opportunities… It really is a very special moment.

We were very close with Doreen Montalvo Mann who passed away unexpectedly this last year, and that’s going to be really sentimental because some of my first memories are singing with her If I Never Got To Tell You when she was playing the mother and I was playing Emilio.

ARIANNA: And Doreen, going back to when we first met, Doreen was the first cast member, out of meeting Omar that night… We had gone out onto the stage because there was a group of people that were there and wanted to talk to Omar because he was on as Emilio. I was just there roaming the stage, looking at everything and Doreen had gone on for the mother that night and she was the first person I sat and talked to. From that moment she was just such a light and so encouraging. Even of me stepping out as a dancer and pursuing singing and truly stepping into that and making sure that I owned it.

OMAR: And similarly, with Jorge Casas who was the music director with The Miami Sound Machine and played with us on Broadway and on tour. He also unexpectedly died while we were out on tour. I still have texts and voicemails from him, he was the biggest champion of mine. He would call and text Gloria and Emilio, he’d be like “Hey, Omar was really awesome tonight!” He was a champion of me in the role of Emilio and he’d be like, “You really sounded like Emilio tonight!” Just a really awesome guy and we’re sad because a lot of The Miami Sound Machine guys will be playing with us again at The MUNY. It’ll be bittersweet that he won’t be there, but I think that it will be such a wonderful opportunity to lift these people up that had a major influence on us and on this work.

ARIANNA: And to celebrate them and this show. In Latin culture it’s almost like, you have your blood family, but your community is also a huge part of your family, which is celebrated within the show as well and how the community takes care of everyone. I think we’ll be able to celebrate both of them through this show and through the music.

OMAR: I think that’s kind of what makes this show perhaps more special than others, at least for me. Not to take anything away from any of the other experiences I’ve had in my career, because I've had extraordinary experiences and feel very blessed. But there is something about sharing in a communal spirit of the same cultural background, and having that to anchor each other. Anytime someone is able to have a community that they relate to within the story that they’re telling makes it potentially more special. I had a friend who was In The Heights originally, and I remember that kind of same communal experience, and I was a little jealous, because it felt different and now I can say that’s very true. We keep in touch with more folks on a daily basis from On Your Feet than we do with any other show that we’ve worked on. That says something.

As we wrap up, I wanted to ask, for theatre fans who haven’t heard of or seen On Your Feet, or can’t make it to The MUNY: Why should they get into this show?

ARIANNA: I think a lot of it we’ve spoken about. If you want to see a story that has heart, that has love, that has cultural ties, that celebrates, that also has some great music and great book scenes - I think that’s what’s amazing about the show. A lot of times when you have jukebox musicals, whether it’s Tina, or it’s Jersey Boys, or something like that, sometimes it’s not really about the book scenes. I think because Alex is such a great scene writer, we were able to marry those two things together. Overall, I think the show is incredible in both of those aspects.

OMAR: Yeah, I would say that this show balances the emotional weight and connection with comedy and joy and celebration. The music is fun and you’re going to get a great concert from it, but you’re also going to be moved and inspired and learn a bit about a particular culture and see how hard work, determination, and passion can really result in a promising career. They definitely are the embodiment of the American dream and believing in something when no one else believes it, but persevering and making it in the end. I think that’s exciting, and when you can match that to an amazing score that’s so fun to enjoy sonically, then it makes for a great show.

Like you said, with Alex’s writing… What he did was really unique in terms of the jukebox musicals because not only did he use the songs in concert, but he also used the songs as plot-driven songs, which doesn’t usually happen in Jersey Boys or Beautiful or anything like that, they serve in context of performance or creation, not as storytelling songs. That’s a testament to Gloria’s writing that the songs had enough of a lyrical throughline that allows for the story to be told through her words.

I think that’s one of the hardest things when pop writers try to move into the musical theatre realm, because pop and theatre don’t always line up. I mean, pop music generally writes about emotions as opposed to story and moving a story forward. Obviously there are some writers that do that, I would say Elton John, Billy Joel, Sara Barellies, but not all of them do. A lot of them are writing hooks and speaking on a certain emotion, and that doesn’t always work in a theatrical experience because it stops the story.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

OMAR: We are very excited for theatre to come back, we are optimistic and hopeful that we can beat this pandemic and return to some sort of normalcy and really enjoy the things that make life fun and vibrant. We’re starting to have those things again with concerts and sporting events and theatre, but if anything this year has proved how important that is. I think that theatre is such an integral part of that, it’s such an important part of our culture in terms of social commentary, political commentary. I’m very excited about the future of theatre, nervous, but also very excited about where we can go and new voices stepping into the light. I hope that we’ll have a place amongst it.

A huge thank you to Arianna and Omar for taking the time to join us here on Both Sides to share all about On Your Feet! You can see them both in the show at The MUNY from August 21st-27th!

You can get your tickets by clicking the link below:

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