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Behind the Scenes of: On Your Feet

'On your feet' was one of the most energetic, spectacular and utterly fun musical I have seen. I have had the opportunity of having a talk with Kent local Philippa Stefani (Gloria Estefan) and Francesca Lara Gordon (Rebecca Estefan).

TK: Do you guys have any particular favourites to perform each night?

PS: Mine changes like every couple of days. For me, I think it’s the opening, just to hear that band, the set up before the drop falls and you are introduced to the show and that music. When it kicks in, it’s like BAM! Here we go! Here we go! Hadn’t felt that in a while. 

FLG: I loved the mega-mix last night. Before this performance, we hadn’t done the show for 8 weeks, so this was like our rebirth. I just found myself loving that part so much. Usually, it’s sometimes the emotional bits for me, sometimes it’s the party atmosphere. You find yourself feeding off the audience, particularly when you haven’t had that for some time. 

TK: Were there any elements of the show where you found yourself facing particular difficulties? 

PS: For me actually, it happened to be a brand-new thing getting used to using a handheld [microphone]. Usually, we just have a mic on the forehead or around the face. So, to get used to using a handheld and performing with that, finding a way to articulate with it. I kept on saying: ‘I don’t want this in my hand’ (laughs). However, it’s an essential component of conveying the moments when Gloria is out on her world tour. 

FLG: I would say that with this show specifically, there are a lot of costume changes. I’m playing a sister, but I’m also involved in the ensemble, so I have many costume changes. I’m floating from being a member of the family to then playing completely different roles. The speed of these costume and wig changes have meant that I’ve had to learn how to switch between everything quickly. Having done this for a while now, it’s helped me grapple with the speed of the show. In terms of any methods I use, it’s all about controlling my breathing otherwise my whole body tenses up. I try to reset and trust the words, not thinking about it too much on stage. 

TK: From your Twitter post, we have seen that you have met Gloria herself. How was that? 

PS: From the get-go she just puts you completely at ease which takes the weight off. So, you are then enabled to do your thing and not be too pressured by her presence. She was just so giving, and I’ll always remember her saying: “I don’t want you to be me. I just want you to do you but as long as you tell the story. As long as you do that honestly – job done.” So that in itself was great and allowed me to do my own interpretation of the story. This isn’t a tribute show, so it was very humbling and very grounding to meet an icon because they are that honest, real and genuine. It was a beautiful experience. 

TK: What excites you about touring and taking this show on the road? 

PS: This is my first ‘big’ tour and I’ve had the luxury of being in the West End for most of my career. Canterbury is my hometown, I’m from Whitstable but I’m born and bred here. That in itself, to bring a show to my hometown is just amazing! To take this and show it to a plethora of people that are the UK is just an absolute honour and a joy.  Different areas have different vibes, audiences are different but it’s nice to witness and engage in that. Just seeing the audience’s reaction every night in different towns is extraordinary.

FLG: I think it brings you closer as a company when you are on tour. I haven’t had tons of experience in the West End but I have toured previously. There is a routine to it all that exists for our own sanity- we have to have our own time. On tour, you are spending more time with the company, and I think there’s something quite nice about that because it’s more cohesive. Having those relationships and having fun outside work all transfers onto the stage. Particularly for this show, if the cast doesn’t have chemistry then it doesn’t work. We’re also able to let the show

breathe a bit more by rehearsing bits and bobs occasionally, whereas in London, it was all about perfection.  TK: What advice would you give to those students and young aspiring artists who are unsure about what to do next?  

PS: Trust in your talent. Trust in your choices. Do everything that you can, work hard because no one’s going to do it for you. If you want to do this career then you need to get an agent, you need to be seen, you need to write those letters and emails, make those phone calls. No one’s going to do it but yourself. Also, make friends with rejection because you will get it all day long. It’s a tough game and it’ll become clear whether you can withstand it or not. I teach a lot of students and this question comes up a lot, so I say trust in what you bring to the table, trust in what you have as an individual because no one else is going to be and have what you have. Audition-wise, just do your thing but to get to that place, you just need to graft and make friends with rejection. You’ll either be able to do that or you won’t. 

FSG: When I’m auditioning, I’m being seen. The more difficult times happen to be when I’m not being seen. It’s tough because as you progress in your career, there will be particular things you won’t want to do anymore; and that will mean waiting longer for other things.  You need to be aware that even if you do get lucky straight away, there are going to be times where you might not be acting for a while. You have to be able to handle that, and for me, those have been some of the most amazing times of my life because I’ve learned so much. Just because I’ve valued other things in life, that doesn’t mean that my passion has been belittled at all. You have to look at the long game and think about whether you can make those sacrifices. It’s the best job in the world but it’s also a sacrifice, a struggle every day. You’re under pressure to deliver, which in itself comes with experience. 

Written in collaboration with Yoan Dzhugdanov; and can be found on InQuire's website:

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