Actress Gaby Albo on Embodying Gloria Estefan in ‘On Your Feet!’ at CIBC Theatre

Photo Credit: Doug Hinebaugh

If you indulged in the groovy, sumptuous pop music of the 1980s and 1990s, then you were undoubtedly touched by Gloria Estefan.

She is arguably the most successful Latin recording artist in history. Back then, her music was as ubiquitous as sunshine. Hits like “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “Conga,” “Get On Your Feet,” and “1-2-3” were heard everywhere, from dance clubs and cocktail lounges to cookouts and baby showers. Even now, Estefan’s music lives and breathes – whether on classic pop radio or at the supermarket where we shop. But there is so much more to her extraordinary story.  

Luckily, Chicago-area fans can catch the musical centered around the life story of Gloria and her husband Emilio in On Your Feet! The Musical – The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan, now playing downtown at the CIBC Theatre. 

The Chicago Defender recently interviewed actress and performer Gaby Albo, who plays the lead role in the musical, bringing Estefan’s story to life on stage. 

Albo shared what it’s like to star as the musical icon and what Chicago audiences should expect from this thrilling production. 

Chicago Defender: What is it about Gloria Estefan’s journey that you connect with the most?

Gaby Albo: She’s very proud that a lot of Latino people, not necessarily Cuban people, are telling her story. Because it’s all of our stories, not just hers. As an immigrant, you leave a lot of stuff. It’s a lot of sacrifice — like leaving your roots, your food, your people — to go and pursue this dream, the challenges with the ‘nos’ and then to overcome them. 

Chicago Defender: How did you get into this business? Who inspired you to want to do this and be a performer?

Albo: Well, I was actually talking about this yesterday, I was a really shy child. I was always in sports but never wanted to pursue an artistic career by any means. In primary school, I was the only one who was not accepted for the choir. Imagine that. I could not make it. 

One day, one of my best friends has a cousin who is a really famous artist in Mexico. Her dad opened a musical theater summer camp. And she was like, ‘Let’s go, let’s go.’ I was like, ‘No, what am I going to do?’ 

I don’t know how she did it, but she convinced me to go. I remember walking out of the classes and having the worst time, like, ‘What are we doing here?’ But then I started noticing that something had been sparking inside of me. I was being more outgoing in my normal life. I started liking the idea of the artist, like being famous. When you’re young, that appeals to you. 

I started to notice a lot of different changes in me, and I stayed in the regular classes. One day, I was at the hairdresser. She’s my mom’s friend, and I was singing with my iPod. [Her mom’s friend] came to me and was like, ‘Gaby, you’re such a bad singer. I have a friend who’s a voice teacher. Why don’t you go and give it a try?’ 

I don’t even know why I went, but it changed my life.

Gaby Albo as Gloria Estefan in On Your Feet

Photo courtesy of On Your Feet!

Chicago Defender: When were you first contacted about this role, and how did you get the opportunity to audition for it?

Albo: That’s a really cool question. I’m from Mexico, and I live in Mexico. I don’t have a house in the States. So I was doing [the show] Alladin there. On my day off, one day, I was watching Netflix with my dad. And I see this actor, and I’m like, he looks just like Luis Salgado. 

Luis Salgado is the choreographer and director of [“On Your Feet!”]. I haven’t seen [Luis Salgado] in 10 years. I took a workshop with him years ago. We follow each other on Instagram, but that was it. 

[The actor on the Netflix show] looked so much like him that I had to send Luis a picture like, ‘Oh my God, I found your twin brother.’ I was about to do it, and then I was like, ‘No.’ He’s going to think it’s super random and weird, so I didn’t. 

Two days later, Luis texted me, ‘Gaby, I’ve been thinking about you. We’re doing a show, and we have been casting, but we haven’t found our person. Would you be interested in sending your materials over?’ 

I didn’t even know what show, what role, what anything. I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, whatever.’ 

This was for the Spanish version of “On Your Feet!” It was a world premiere in Spanish in DC. We did a very short run there. I left everything for a month. And then, towards the end, there was a rumor of a tour happening. We didn’t know if it was Spanish, in English, and in the US or South America. 

We just knew a tour was happening. Then, one day, my Instagram, email, and phone were packed with messages like ‘Gaby, send this video now.’ It was Luis requesting the video for the tour. I finished the show and went back to Mexico, and that’s when I knew I was going to play in [On Your Feet!] here. 

Chicago Defender: Wow. How long was it when you first did that month-long tour?

Albo: Almost two years ago.

Chicago Defender: That’s awesome. Congratulations. Gloria Estefan is beloved by so many people. She’s had so many hits. How does it feel to perform those hits when you hit the stage every night?

Albo: It’s a mix of everything. It also depends on the night because being on tour is hard. My dad is like, ‘You have the coolest job ever. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, you get to see the cool part.’ But it’s a really hard job to do, actually, and it is really demanding in a lot of different ways.

Every night is different. I love to do, for example, the opening of the second act, which is the World Tour part of the show. You have [songs] like “Get On Your Feet” and “Conga,” but it’s really a dance-heavy number, and you’re like wearing those heels when you’ve been traveling for a lot of days in a row, like with one-nighters? But in the end, it’s rewarding. Every night. I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ I’m so happy and thankful for my body that we could go through it and do the show because I think it’s a story worth telling. Like the (Gloria Estefan song) “Coming Out Of The Dark.” I think it heals, literally. It’s beautiful.

Chicago Defender: What do you hope audiences in Chicago will get out of seeing “On Your Feet!”

Albo: A lot of things. First of all, I know they’re going to have fun. It’s going to be a good night. And I guess that’s the obvious thing when people think of Gloria Estefan. “Conga. I’m going to be Conga-ing all night long.’ But also, I think it’s very healing. In the end, everybody’s going to feel deeply touched. And that’s what people are not expecting. And I love it when they take more than just a fun night with them.

For More Information


Where: CIBC Theatre, 18 W Monroe St, Chicago

Dates:  Now through March 24

Runtime: 2 hours and 15 minutes, including an intermission

Age Recommendations: This show is suitable for ages eight and up.

Ticket Info: For information on tickets, please visit

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