It’s true: rhythm is gonna get you. At least that’s what Gloria Estefan told us back in ’87 with her Miami Sound Machine smash hit of the same name (which was co-produced by her husband, Emilio Estefan).
That classic tune is featured in the national touring production of “On Your Feet!” a biographical musical starring Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan. The show is at the Hippodrome Theatre June 5-10.
“On Your Feet!” is directed by two-time Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell, with Tony-nominated choreography by Sergio Trujillo and a book by Academy Award-winner Alexander Dinelaris (“Birdman”),
Jmore recently spoke with Devon Goffman, a veteran Broadway actor, musician, playwright and motivational speaker who appears in “On Your Feet!” A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Goffman lives in New York City with his actress wife, Katie.
Jmore: What’s “On Your Feet!” about?
DG: It’s the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan. They were Cuban immigrants who came to America and took the world by storm. The show itself is pretty much the story of their life told in a musical. We have five members of the original Miami Sound Machine band — the band is actually on stage with us.
It’s almost like a combination; it is a full-on musical but it also feels like you’re seeing an actual concert because you’ve got the band right there onstage. The show is a mixture of being about family, about heritage and where you come from, and what America is really about, which is people from all over the world coming here to find happiness and to go after their dreams.
Gloria and Emilio were this loving couple, and they met and fell in love. There’s the love story between them, but there’s also the love story between them and America. They were a Latin band and they were told to keep playing in Spanish and keep playing their kind of music and touring in South and Latin America and everywhere else.
But when they came to [the United States], they wanted to sing in English because the two of them spoke English. Gloria’s first language was mostly English. So part of the story is the obstacle they faced as Cuban immigrants coming to America and how they overcame it and became one of the greatest American bands in history.
Were you previously a fan of the Estefans’ work?
Well, it’s interesting; I was a fan of their work for sure. I’m a musician myself and I grew up listening to this music in the ‘80s and the ‘90s. And I did “Jersey Boys” and I did “Motown the Musical” and I’ve done “The Buddy Holly Story,” so I’ve done a lot of musicals about bands. I’m kind of a music history buff, especially rock and pop music history.
But I think the reason I got into this show was because of my history of doing shows like “Jersey Boys.” We have the same choreographer as “Jersey Boys,” Sergio Trujillo. Basically, I’m the only non-Latin actor in the show and I play Phil, the Jewish, white record producer, who was sort of an important obstacle that [the Estefans] overcame. Thank God, Phil jumped on board with what they were doing because he made himself a lot of money from it.
Have you actually met the Estefans?
I’ve gotten to hang out with Emilio and I’ve gotten to hang out with Gloria, and they’re the kindest people. I saw this show in New York and I loved it. I loved what it represented, especially what it represents today with some of the bigotry that’s been happening in our country. Social media has been uncovering a lot of bigotry and a lot of what I would call old ways of thinking that a lot of us thought we were past.
So our musical [is] a little bit of an eye-opener for people, and it comes at this immigrant story as, “Hey, look how much beauty these immigrants have brought into our country.” We’re all immigrants, we all come from other places. We came here from all over, and it’s really terrible to try to build walls instead of bridges.
In addition to playing Phil, you’re also listed as part of the ensemble. When you’re playing an ensemble role, how does that affect the way you play a role?
Besides the pair of actors who obviously have the same roles the entire show, Gloria and Emilio, almost everyone else has another role. I think there are only four people who play just one role in the show. Even with some of the bigger roles, we also double as other things. And it’s actually really fun for us because you get to be a part of more things. I play a soldier in the opening scene and then I get to be a waiter/spy in an old Cuban scene, which is fun.
I don’t really treat them differently. You try to find the through line of your main character, and you create each character to be different. I try to be a chameleon as an actor. If somebody does recognize that I played all the roles, great. That’s great on you, but I would love to have you not pulled out of the show by the fact that I’m playing someone else.
Does being Jewish intersect with your life as a performer?
I was taught at a young age by my grandfather to tell jokes, even at family dinners. My grandfather was a comical guy and he was great at speaking in front of a group of people, which is something that I do very well. And my mom, also, was an amazing teacher who won a presidential award for the way she taught how to use calculators in math classes. So I had these role models. … I’ve learned that a motto of the Jewish people is, “Leave the world better than you came into it with.” We’re taught that and I took that to heart, and it’s actually naturally a part of me, to try to do some good.
For information, visit baltimore.broadway.com/shows/on-your-feet-baa/.
Alex Holt is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.