Student blogger Owen Fitzpatrick gives us his take on our latest Broadway musical, On Your Feet!

Come on. Shake your body. Do the Conga…

You know the song, and you probably know the chorus too. This iconic tune from 1985 launched the Miami Sound Machine, with Gloria Estefan as lead vocalist, into stardom. Gloria and Emilio Estefan embraced their Cuban culture and their new home here in America after immigrating to this country, making them one of the first true crossover artists between two music genres. In the spirit of the Jersey Boys and and other jukebox musicals, On Your Feet! tells the story behind the music of Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

Their story is not just about music. Their Latin music that crossed over to ’80s pop burned up the charts. Knowing what I do about music from my General Music class, I can tell you that back in the ’80s there was no Taylor Swift being half used-to-be country and half pop star. No Mannheim Steamroller bulldozing Christmas. Pavarotti wouldn’t have done a duet with James Brown. Sting and Shaggy wouldn’t be on tour singing songs they wrote together. We have all this great music thanks to the trail-blazing, and brave sound, of the Miami Sound Machine. We are grateful that Ricky Martin can live la vida loca and we can hear all these crossover artists and inspiring duets today, all because Gloria told us, “I can’t stay away from you.”

The Estefans’ story is inspiring and uplifting, not just because of their humble beginnings, but also due to Gloria’s determination to make herself whole after a crippling back injury. Gloria and Emilio’s hustle didn’t end with their music. I looked it up, and the Estefans’ business success is pretty impressive, with a record production company, music publishing, restaurants, hotels and minority ownership in the Miami Dolphins. (Go Pats!)

The Estefans are an example of the all-American story and the American Dream come true. They achieved great things through hard work and through perseverance. It’s absolutely true that opportunity can be squandered or seized. They seized it.

While watching this performance and celebrating On Your Feet! with the Estefans, we need to be mindful that opportunity does not arise for all people. For every family who made it and came from harsh or difficult circumstance, we need to remember that there are those who didn’t make it. We need to be mindful of people who are marginalized in our society. There are people who truly cannot catch a break, in this country and in the world. I leave you with that thought, but as Gloria says, “I won’t let the words get in the way. There’s so much I want to say.” As we piece together our own history today, in the age of ancestry kits, we must realize we are also shaping our future.

I have to admit, last year, seeing Jersey Boys at The Hanover Theatre sold me on musicals with songs by artists I recognize. I’ve heard music from Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine at parties, beach vacations and even my mom dancing in the kitchen gearing up to see this show. She said she can’t control herself any longer because she feels the rhythm of the music getting stronger. I hear that, if you’re not careful, the rhythm is gonna get you.