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5 Questions with Queer ‘On Your Feet!’ Cast Member Jake Dylan Ahead of Fox Theatre Performance 

Performer on why the Gloria and Emilio Estefan musical resonates with queer audiences

Sarah Bricker Hunt

Detroiters will have only a brief opportunity to see the Broadway hit musical “On Your Feet! The Story Of Emilio & Gloria Estefan” when the touring production comes to the Fox Theatre Feb. 24. 

The musical features the Latin-pop hits that made Gloria Estefan a household name, from high-energy dance numbers like “Conga” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” to ballads like “Coming Out of the Dark,” the 1990 single that still resonates with many queer fans today. Director Luis Salgado, who appeared in the original Broadway production of “On Your Feet!,” said in press materials that the story exemplifies the American Dream through the eyes and work ethic of Cuban immigrants. “The Estefans have given us permission to dare to dream bigger,” he writes. “They allowed their truth to resonate through their music, penetrating all of us, whether you’re Latine or not. This joy is a gift we want to give to our audiences.”

Queer cast member Jake Dylan, who plays record executive Phil, sat down with Pride Source recently to talk about what it’s like to tour with the production and why he thinks queer fans have held Gloria Estefan in such high esteem throughout her decades-long career. 



"On Your Feet" ensemble cast photo. Photo: DJ Corey
"On Your Feet" ensemble cast photo. Photo: DJ Corey

Tell me about Jake Dylan.

I've been doing theater since about 4 or 5. My dad ran an entertainment club in New York City and I kind of grew up in the audition circuit — I was doing Broadway and professional theater in New York when I was a kid and missing school in New Jersey and traveling at night to the city and all that and started doing some film work as well as a teenager. Then, I ended up going to college for dance. I got my BFA in commercial dance from Pace University in New York and then went on to do some cruise ship work and regional theater. And now I'm on my first national tour. That's the scope as far as performing. Otherwise, I love the New Jersey Shore. I love the beach; I love my friends and concerts. I’ll be 31 in a few weeks or a few months, but who’s counting?

Can you speak to being a queer cast member on this tour, especially as that might relate to Gloria’s influence on the community over the years?

Luckily, I work around such a big queer community, so it's not out of the norm. I would say it’s probably abnormal to not be, but still that doesn't take away from the significance of having that representation in professional theater in this show specifically. I would equate Gloria Estefan to what she was in the ‘80s is now probably what Lady Gaga is right now or what Madonna has always been, but Gloria has been a trailblazer for sure. Knowing that she's an ally still in her 60s is just so important because she definitely was creating music for queer people to feel safe in a time that it wasn't as accepted.

Do you have a favorite song or two from the show?

Definitely “1-2-3” is one, and honestly, I didn't know it before I was doing the show, but I love all of that song in our show and how it's done and definitely “Conga” just by the nature of it being my exposure to her initially, and I just feel like that's a universal party type song.

What has been the most surprising thing about the tour for you?

So the crazy thing for me was when I first joined the show in the summer, it was in a theater in Maine where we were for five weeks, and I really got to know everyone on the crew and how it all works behind the scenes. There are so many small things making the show happen, and for me, something like a costume change, something that can seem so minor can change the whole show. You figure out the small things like "This is where I put this costume. This is how this change happens.”

It happens more than an audience member might realize that small things are being quickly corrected backstage. As a performer, you try to make it look very natural. When we were rehearsing before we had an audience, there was a time I couldn’t get my pants off, so they had to stop the entrance of the scene and wait a couple of seconds — knock on wood, that hasn’t happened since!

Why do you think this show is important?

I believe this show is so important and shares such an important message about inclusivity, and it’s just fun. I haven’t heard anyone see it not enjoy themselves in that two and a half hours, across the many regions of the country we’re touring. Even if I wasn’t a part of it, I’d say this is a very worthwhile show to get out and support.

Feb. 24, 2 p.m., Fox Theatre (2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit). Buy tickets at bit.ly/48uPlnr.

Note: Two scheduled performances for this show have been canceled. Tickets for the performances on Friday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. can be refunded at point of purchase. Tickets purchased by phone or online will be automatically refunded.



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