By Brad Haynes
If there were ever a jukebox musical perfect for the Sunshine State, it’s On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical currently on tour and playing at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
Beginning in Miami (although it’s somewhat hard with the show’s narrative structure to tell whether we’re in Cuba or the United States), On Your Feet! charts the discovery of plucky young Glorita Fajardo (Christie Prades), an aspiring young singer, by musical wheeler dealer Emilio Estefan (Mauricio Martinez). And even though it takes them both a while to figure out, we quickly see the romantic sparks begin to fly between the two, and Prades and Martinez have a fiery hot chemistry together.
In a structure similar to other shows like Jersey Boys and Beautiful, On Your Feet! uses the music of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine (who we find out were originally called Miami Latin Boys before the addition of Gloria) to tell the tale of the couple’s rise to fame in the music industry. It also eventually leads to tragedy when Gloria is seriously injured in an accident when a semi crashes into the tour bus transporting her and her family.
As one of her most well known songs says, the “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” and that it does. While some of the narrative devices may come off rather weak (the passage of time seems to be tinkered with in order to alter what needs to happen in the story), it’s the familiar music and the amazing choreography by Sergio Trujillo (who was nominated for a Tony for his work) that will keep you engaged throughout the show.
Plus, in addition to being stunning, Prades and Martinez have perfect voices for the show.
As Gloria’s mother, Nancy Ticotin is a true standout. Her spitfire presence, mixed with her understandable envy of her daughter’s success, make her a complicated character, and Ticotin’s portrayal is larger than life, commanding the stage when it comes her turn to shine with “Mi Tierra.”
Gloria’s abuela Consuelo, played by Broadway vet Alma Cuervo, provides the majority of the evening’s comic relief and lights up the stage.
The show seems to end rather abruptly at the American Music Awards where Gloria returns to the stage after her accident, making a triumphant comeback with “Coming Out Of The Dark.”
But it’s not truly over, as the show concludes with what amounts to a “Mega Mix” of crowd pleasers (the number of recognizable hits throughout the show is truly amazing), deservedly bringing the audience to their feet and giving all of the show’s leads a chance to shine before the final curtain call.
On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical! plays the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m. through Friday, October 20; at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, October 21; and at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, October 22. Click here to purchase tickets.