Andy Señor, Jr.
‘On Your Feet!’
Through Jan. 28
The Kennedy Center
When out actor/director Andy Señor, Jr. learned his old Grammy Award-winning friends Gloria and Emilio Estefan were doing a jukebox musical about their lives titled “On Your Feet!,” he reached out to the show’s director Jerry Mitchell, asking to be taken on as associate director.
After Señor, 43, explained that he’s Cuban and from Miami and about his relationship with Gloria and Emilio, Mitchell quickly hired him and nicknamed him “the authenticity police.” “On Your Feet!” premiered on Broadway in 2015 and currently the national tour production is at the Kennedy Center throughout most of January.
WASHINGTON BLADE: What’s your connection to the Estefans?
ANDY SENOR: My father was Gloria’s parents’ neighbor in Havana. When Gloria’s mom’s water broke to give birth to Gloria, my dad was there and watched the splash. My dad helped get her to the hospital. They reconvened later in Miami. My sister and Gloria’s sister started the first Miami Sound Machine fan club and my dad’s band was the Gloria’s opening act for a lot of quinceañeras and weddings. I grew up hanging out underneath the soundboard most weekends.
BLADE: How’d you get into theater?
SENOR: I wanted to be a singer. But as a teenager I was too embarrassed to say I was a singer around all these famous people like the Estefans and Jon Secada, so I got into musical theater instead. It was a way to sing and not claim I was a singer. Studying theater at Florida International University, I fell in love with theater, both the performance and community aspects.
BLADE: Tell us about was playing Angel, the Latin drag queen in ‘Rent’ on Broadway.
SENOR: When “Rent” came out I was 22. Being a gay Latin guy, I had never seen many parts that reflected what I could do, and then I watched the Tony Awards and saw a guy who looked just like me win a Tony for playing Angel. It blew me away. Seeing a gay Latin character with a lover represented who I was. So, I auditioned and got the part and played Angel for a long time on Broadway and tours.
BLADE: What was it like directing and producing the historic production of “Rent” in Havana, Cuba in 2014, marking the first Broadway musical co-production between the United States and the Cuba in 50 years.
SENOR: Yes, that was an opportunity I couldn’t pass on. My family was against me going to Cuba for political reasons. They left during Revolution. But for me having taken the show to so many places, of course I was going to Cuba. How could I not? Many Cuban Americans like me feel divided. We want to honor parents, but we also know that we’re the ones who have to make the shift. We have inherited this conversation. To engage and create a vehicle that opens conversation not only in entertainment but also politics is powerful. Soon we’ll be releasing a documentary “Revolution Rent” that follows me through the experience.
BLADE: How did you shift from acting to directing?
SENOR: I never set out to be a Broadway director. At one point I found myself onstage and was like, “This is good but so what? There must be more here.” In college I was directing and pitching ideas so it was inevitable it would go that way but that day came more quickly than I expected. I assisted director Michael Grief on the off-Broadway revival of “Rent,” and then Japan acquired rights and he had me direct the show in Japan with double cast in Japanese. I thought, “Oh shit,” but I had to do it. Life takes me where it wants to take me. It’s still taking me places I don’t know. I’m always there to serve the project in whatever capacity that might be whether it’s acting, directing or producing.
BLADE: How was your coming out experience in Miami’s conservative Cuban community?
SENOR: It wasn’t hard compared to some stories I’ve heard. I always had unconditional love but it was challenging. I was in a frat in college when I came out and they dealt with it. Then I got into “Rent” and was playing a drag queen and my parents had to deal with it. They had their moment and then they were over it.
BLADE: What’s your future hold?
SENOR: I’m on the board of Viva Broadway. Its mission is to nurture and develop Broadway’s Hispanic audience. The audience needs nurturing and that’s what I’m looking at. Life is taking me in that direction. Right now, I’m single but I’m open to a relationship.