Interview: Nancy Ticotin – The Rhythm Is Gonna Get Her

Nancy Ticotin of On Your Feet National Tour interview on Equality365.com

Nancy Ticotin is no stranger to Broadway. She achieved an Equity union card at the age of 10 (while performing in City Center’s The King and I), and has been performing on stage ever since. With a Russian and Hispanic background, dancing for a living was almost inevitable. Currently in the bio-musical On Your Feet!, Ms. Ticotin continues to celebrate the dance on stage.

On Your Feet! is inspiring people with the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre through October 28, 2018. Get tickets and more info here.

About On Your Feet!

On Your Feet! is the inspiring true story about heart, heritage and two people who believed in their talent—and each other—to become an international sensation: Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

Now their story has arrived on stage in an exhilarating original production that’s already won the hearts of critics and audiences alike, with the Chicago Tribune declaring “IT’S A HIT!” and The New York Times cheering, “The very air in the room seems to vibrate in this undeniably crowd-pleasing musical!” “If you aren’t humming a Gloria Estefan hit when you leave the theater, it might be time to check your pulse!” raves the Associated Press.

Directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots), with choreography by Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and a book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman), ON YOUR FEET! features some of the most iconic songs of the past quarter-century, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “Conga,” “Get On Your Feet,” “Don’t Want To Lose You Now,” “1-2-3” and “Coming Out of the Dark.” Prepare to be on your feet from start to finish!

Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and Company, ON YOUR FEET! (photo © Matthew Murphy)

Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and Company, ON YOUR FEET! (photo © Matthew Murphy)

Interview With Nancy Ticotin

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?
Nancy Ticotin: I guess my first dance teacher was a large influence. Tina Ramirez was my first teacher in Spanish dance, Flamenco. She later created the Ballet Hispanico of New York. I was an original member of the troupe at age 13. It is still the leading Hispanic dance group in the country.

Andrews-Katz: What was the show that gave you the theatre bug?
Ticotin: I have to preface this by saying that my siblings and myself are all in show business. My brother works on producing Oscar-winning films; my sister is in movies… There are five of us, and we are all in the business. We used to put on our own shows, no scripts; we’d just do it. We lived in the South Bronx and would invite people from the building, and charge them a nickel. My mother would make cupcakes. I don’t know how or why it started, it just did. There was something within us. The first musical movie was probably The Sound of Music, or maybe Mary Poppins. It wasn’t a realization as much as a confirmation that that was what I wanted to do with my life. When we saw the film West Side Story that was it. It spoke to me and was “Wow!” Gloria Estefan’s music is another that spoke to me. It was music that was like me, someone with a Hispanic background. The Russian part of my heritage adds to the singing and dancing as well.

Andrews-Katz: Your first two Broadway shows were choreographed by the great Jerome Robbins (West Side Story and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway). What do you find challenging about the works of the great master?
Ticotin: Actually my first musical was The King and I, back in 1968. (Another Jerome Robbins’ piece. My brother, sister and I were among the King’s children) I think his work is wonderful. It challenges, and that is what we live for in our art. Otherwise, we don’t progress and develop. His choreography is very ballet based, and without a ballet background, you cannot execute his dancing well. I learned about acting from him. He came up to me and said, “Everything is seen,” and from that moment on I thought of myself as an actress. When I’m standing, or moving my hand, I’m still part of the scene, not just decoration as a dancer, but as an actress. He was a tough guy, but we got along very well. The story of him berating the cast of West Side Story, and he walked back into the orchestra pit without anyone stopping him, it’s a true story.

Andrews-Katz: You worked with your (now) ex-husband on the 1994 revival of Damn Yankees. Did you find it more difficult to be married to a man that is also in the same field?
Ticotin: You know what? We were not really in the same field. He was producing more than being a stage actor. It was educational, and I learned a lot. I can appreciate both sides of it, from an actor’s perspective.

Andrews-Katz: How do you think the Latin rhythms have influenced the music of other cultures?
Ticotin: The Latin music comes from the Afro-Cuban rhythm. It’s all about the percussion, to begin with. All the intricate patterns are absolutely found in every form of music, from popular music to classical styles. It’s a major part of dance music.

Andrews-Katz: Currently you are performing in On Your Feet!, the biographical musical of Gloria Estefan. What was it about her style and music that led her to be so successful?
Ticotin: She was the first one to do crossover music. The first one in an American-speaking music scene, this is a piece of music that is absolutely 100% Latino, but in English. [Gloria] opened that door. Without help of their music company (who refused to assist them), the Estefans did it on their own. They are self-made successes. [On Your Feet] is a wonderful story and we – as a company – feel that we are proud and honored to have this message to share. At the same time, it is a heavy burden to deliver the message to America, to tell the immigrant story of this couple from Cuba. It’s such a sensitive subject in our country right now. There are emotional family issues, tension, love/hate issues and forgiveness, all in this story!

Joseph Rivera, Adriel Flete, Jeremey Adam Rey, Nancy Ticotin as Gloria Fajardo and Hector Maisonet, ON YOUR FEET! (photo © Matthew Murphy)

Joseph Rivera, Adriel Flete, Jeremey Adam Rey, Nancy Ticotin as Gloria Fajardo and Hector Maisonet, ON YOUR FEET! (photo © Matthew Murphy)

Andrews-Katz: In the musical, you play Gloria’s mother. Have you met her since taking on the role? Do you find it easier or more difficult to play a character based on a real person?
Ticotin: She passed away a couple of months before the tour began. She never saw the show on Broadway because of the [estranged] relationship Gloria had with her mother. Her mother was a real character, very headstrong, stubborn, and resistant… She knew what she wanted to do and there was no talking her out of it. She always was very well dressed; she could be wearing pajamas with a necklace and makeup. The challenge to emulate that person is greater when she is not alive, and there aren’t too many people that can compare her to my performance. I’ve had people tell me that my performance is exactly like her.

Andrews-Katz: In your opinion what is the one thing that the audience will be most surprised about when coming to see On Your Feet!?
Ticotin: People are so surprised about the journey, the emotional journey; that goes on with this show. The ups and downs. People cry because they are moved by the bus accident [that almost killed Gloria]. The song “If I Never Got to Tell You” is the only original song in the show. We use mostly the music of Gloria’s work, but Gloria’s daughter Emily Estefan wrote this song.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role – regardless of all limitations – what would it be and why?
Ticotin: There are so many. I do relate to a lot of male characters. One comes to mind. In the musical Shenandoah, the John Cullum role, with the song “Heard It All Before”. I also would love to play “Mama Rose” in Gypsy. I would love to do Evita, but I’m not right for the casting.

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About Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at: http://www.EricAndrewsKatz.com

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