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Andy Senor Jr. talks Gloria Estefan, Cuba, 'On Your Feet'
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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Tony-nominated show On Your Feet is returning to Chicago after a big debut here at the Oriental Theatre in 2015.

The story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan struck a chord with viewers, thanks to many hit songs like "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," "Reach" and "Conga." The show begins backstage during a massive concert then is told in flashback form delving into the history of the couple in Cuba, and their rise to fame.

On Your Feet's out and proud associate director, Andy Senor Jr., talked with Windy City Times about the current production and how growing up around the Estefans changed his life.

Windy City Times: Where are you from originally? Tell our readers about yourself.

Andy Senor Jr.: I am from Miami, Florida. I am Cuban-American.

I started as an actor on Broadway. I was in the show Rent for many years playing the role of Angel. I transitioned into directing. I was Michael Greif's associate on Rent when he did the revival. I put the show up in Japan and Cuba. I worked with Rent a lot as well as On Your Feet.

WCT: How did you join On Your Feet?

ASJ: Since I had a good resume and worked with great directors as their associate, when I heard about On Your Feet I wrote Jerry Mitchell. I told him I am Cuban-American, from Miami, have an associate director background and [am] very close with the Estefans. My parents were Gloria Estefan's neighbors in Havana.

When Gloria's mom's water broke to give birth to Gloria, my dad helped get them to the hospital. They started their music careers together in Miami. I grew up with Gloria and Emilio so I had that relationship with them. I was present for almost anything in the story.

Jerry wanted to meet me right away!

WCT: What does an associate director do?

ASJ: Since I did know them so well, I helped to shape the musical. Jerry called me "the authenticity police." I was more hands-on.

Now since the show opened, and Jerry does Pretty Woman and other shows, I basically take care of the show. I mounted the tour and the Amsterdam company. I am with them right now.

That is what I do. I back Jerry up in whatever he needs and take over for him.

WCT: How long have been with On Your Feet?

ASJ: Since the very beginning at the first reading.

WCT: I spoke with the Estefans when they were here. Gloria is a supporter of the gay community.

ASJ: Yes, she is. Her daughter is in a relationship with a woman right now.

WCT: I didn't know that. How has On Your Feet evolved since it left Chicago?

ASJ: Jerry did a really great job in Chicago delivering what was going to go to Broadway. The show you saw in Chicago was pretty much the same on Broadway, which is the same on the tour. He's very good at keeping the brand consistent.

WCT: What would you tell people about the show [who] haven't seen it yet?

ASJ: People expect to come see a jukebox musical. Although it is Gloria's music, people are inspired by the story. They are caught off guard and it is very unexpected how emotionally tied they get to the story by the end.

They should bring some tissues with them!

WCT: Do you visit Cuba often?

ASJ: Yes. In 2014 I put up the first cultural project between the United States and Cuba, which was the musical Rent. I put it up with Cuban actors. It was pretty fascinating. We are working on a documentary about that right now.

WCT: It was in Spanish or English?

ASJ: Spanish. I was working on that the same time as On Your Feet. One moment I was rehearsing an $18-million budgeted musical on Broadway, and the next moment I am in Revolution Square with no budget trying to put up a musical with Cuban actors.

WCT: How is Cuba with gay rights?

ASJ: It is definitely more open that it's ever been. The president's daughter is a big advocate for gay rights so that has made a big impact on the island.

WCT: How is traveling to Cuba now?

ASJ: It used to be more open, but Trump has imposed some further sanctions, so it reverted some. Now you have to go with a group. It has to be a with a guide from a special program.

WCT: Talk a bit more about the Rent documentary.

ASJ: It is called Revolution Rent. It is a memoir-style documentary that captures my time in 2014. My family was very much against me going, because I had to work with the Cuban government to put up the show.

I knew the power of Rent and the message it had, specifically for artists. I chose to go. We were putting up the show and rehearsing it. Right before we opened Obama made the new regulations with Cuba. We got caught up with that moment in time where things were opening up and evolving. That just all went goodbye!

On Your Feet will be at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., through April 8; visit .

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