Christie Prades is a Cuban-American singer, dancer, actress and writer currently playing Gloria Estefan in the musical On Your Feet! Andrew Peters found out more about this versatile performer.
All Photos copyright: Kenneth Lam
Q Christie, you were born and raised in Miami and being a Cuban-American is just one of the similarities you have with the Estefans. Did your background and upbringing help you portray Gloria Estefan?
A Absolutely. I sincerely feel that being Cuban-American as well as being from Miami have definitely helped me so much in regard to diving into the role that is Gloria. I just get the storyline on such a personal level: everything from the jokes we say, to the lingo that’s written, to the clubs mentioned in the show which were beyond popular in Miami. My parents used to go all the time when they were first married.
There are many similarities between Gloria and me. For one thing, both our moms’ birthdays are on the same day and they both have the same profession – school teachers. Not only that, but my mother is from the province of Santiago in Cuba, and Emilio Estefan is from there as well! Scary how many things we have in common.
Q You went to the same college (Miami Dade) as impresario Emilio Estefan – were you a fan of the music from a young age?
A Most definitely. Gloria and Emilio were huge examples to me on how to manifest any dream you have into reality. They started from the ground up and built an empire, not to mention new age sound from nothing. Their music was timeless to me and still is.
Q Who was the first person to tell you that you had talent? Did you believe it yourself at the time?
A I think this answer is pretty universal: my mom, ha ha! She always encouraged me to sing in front of everyone. I always did it for the simple love of it, however, she was the one with a bigger vision. I have her to thank for that.
Q Did you ever dream you would end up being as successful as you have become?
A You know, it’s a funny thing when people ask me this. I feel I’m always striving toward a new goal, so I never feel the sensation of: I made it. More of an enjoyment and love for what I am doing in the moment, but always shooting for a higher star. I never dreamt I’d be in London leading a West End show though. This has been a beautiful blessing.
Q Prior to On your Feet! you’d been in a number of smaller productions and played the role of Gloria as understudy for quite a while on Broadway. How did you become the lead in the show?
A First of all, let me say that I loved being a swing on Broadway! It was the hardest job (aside from leading the company), but made me so much more of a malleable artist and performer. My brain was trained for any and everything to happen in live theatre.
I covered seven tracks, including the first cover. It was in September 2016 that Gloria herself had come out and watched me play her. From then on, she stayed in contact and in February 2017 she asked if I wanted to lead the first US national tour after my run on Broadway. The rest is history. After 20 months on the road, Gloria then asked me if I was interested in London. Of course, I had to say yes!
Q Is this the ideal part for you?
A 100% yes, if I wanted to also represent myself and my culture on a personal level. Which, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to be their organic selves while playing someone else?
Q In the production, you’re on stage for a long time, missing only two numbers. How do you manage to pace yourself?
A I used to run track and field. I was a long-distance runner in high school and one of the first things I was taught was pace and saving your best for last, especially during one or two-mile races.
Throughout the show, I’m constantly thinking of my pace, physically as well as vocally. I never stop focusing on that: it has been the only way I have been able to last this long doing so many shows.
Q On the Broadway run, the production made history by having a predominantly Latino cast. Did this help ease the gruelling workload of the shows?
A In regard to the storyline or cultural aspect of it? Yes. It brought many challenges as every show does, but the cultural aspect and intention behind it? That runs in our blood! It came naturally!
Q How rewarding do you find singing and dancing to bring people to their feet?
A A dream come true. Honestly.
Q On stage, who are you hoping to impress other than the audience?
A I don’t hope I impress anyone. I just always hope to get every single person out in the audience feeling as if they just saw themselves and their personal struggles through Gloria’s story. It’s all about humanity and what we all go through in the real world: struggles, heartbreaks, setbacks, fails, tears, laughs – life.
Q What challenges did playing Gloria Estefan present that you hadn’t previously experienced?
A Eight shows a week playing this global superstar is no joke. I sing about 19 songs throughout the show, so it has been quite a challenge. Especially singing in ‘her voice’, all while trying to interpret her, never imitating her.
Q The show has been a huge success in the States. Do you pay any attention to social media or any production’s ratings?
A I never really look at ratings of other shows. I do enjoy hearing word of mouth and what people think about the shows before I attempt to try and see any.
Christie PradesChristie Prades is a Cuban-American singer, dancer, actress and writer born and raised in Miami, Florida. Christie has worked as a bi-lingual vocalist and writer for multiple artists including Qwote, Maffio, Kymani Marley, Fito Blanko and JetSetVega.
Along with continuously working in the recording booth, Christie has worked with multiple theatres around the United States as a musical theatre performer. She has played the lead role of Vanessa in the Tony-Award winning Broadway show In the Heights in the Actors Playhouse in Miami, as well as at the American Stage Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she won Best Lead Actress in a Musical at the 2015 Theatre Tampa Bay Awards. The Heights Miami cast also won Best Musical and Best Musical Production at the 2014 South Florida Carbonell Awards. Christie has played the lead role of Kate in The D*Word musical in the Las Vegas Hotel in Nevada.
Along with theatre, Christie has appeared in national commercials including Taco Bell, Burlington Coat Factory and Barry University, and began her acting career after having initially booked a lead role in the SAG independent film titled If You Only Knew which received incredible reviews at the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals in California. Christie Prades is a proud member of the Actors Equity Association, and currently works/trains in New York City.
Q Any highs and lows you’d care to mention?
A A lot of sacrifice when it comes to a personal life. But if you love what you do, then it’s all worth it.
Q The UK tour started in Leicester and has now moved to London for a limited time before touring the country from September. Have you found British audiences as enthusiastic as the US?
A I always got word that British audiences are usually more reserved when it comes to cheering. This is not true with our show. They are epic and loud! I love it!
Q Having toured America with On Your Feet! you must be getting used to life on the road?
A I haven’t had a chance to really settle in between the national tour and UK production, so I am indeed used to it. Although I have never been this far from home before. It’s exciting.
Q Are you a fan of the Royal Family?
A Yes. I’ve watched every show there is about them. Ha! I was stunned when I met Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at the Olivier Awards.
Q What do you think the Estefans have done for Cuban-Americans?
A They have paved the way for so many of us in so many ways. Everywhere from job opportunities, to political actions, to making my childhood dreams come true.
Q Music is very much in your blood, and you’ve written and collaborated with various artists. Is it your ambition to do more writing?
A I have fallen madly in love with acting and interpreting lyrics and music up close in front of a camera. I’m definitely interested in film and television, or incorporating a musical drama/comedy on screen. Music is always a first love though.
On Your Feet! is currently playing at the London Coliseum until Saturday 31 August and will then tour the country from September. Christie Prades will not be on the UK tour after August and will only perform in London.
Websites: www.onyourfeetmusical.co.uk and www.londoncoliseum.org