Book by Alexander Dinelaris
Featuring Music Produced and Recorded by Emilio and Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine
Directed by Jerry Mitchell
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Exactly how easy is it to get up on one’s feet after a significant life challenge? “On Your Feet!,” currently playing at the Marquis Theatre, addresses this enduring question by focusing on the lives and successful careers of Emilio and Gloria Estefan. The musical follows Gloria’s flight from Cuba’s Revolution, to meeting Emilio while in college in the United States, to the 1991 American Music Awards where Gloria celebrated her first public performance following her serious bus accident in 1990.
Although “On Your Feet!” features a book by Alexander Dinelaris, it is really an engaging jukebox musical that depends heavily on the music of the Estefans and the Miami Sound Machine to tell the story of the iconic couple. The musical highlights several important themes and raises a considerable collection of rich and enduring questions. How does one decide between one’s passion and the demanding expectations of one’s close relatives? In Gloria’s case, her mother does not support Gloria’s love for performance but her grandmother insists that Gloria not sacrifice her dreams for a more “stable” career.
Gloria’s mother thought Gloria – like her sister – should continue to pursue her academic career and help the family care for Gloria’s bedridden father. When does commitment to family require one to abandon one’s own needs and future?
Once in America and enjoying success in the Spanish-speaking market, Emilio wanted Gloria to be able to crossover to a wider English-speaking audience. Their agents were not interested in a crossover career for Gloria and Emilio had to become proactive to make this part of their dream possible. As a result, Gloria is often considered to be the first successful crossover performer to date. In the process, Emilio is able to break racial and cultural stereotypes, at one-point proclaiming to a doubting agent, “This is what an American looks like!”
Unfortunately, the Playbill does not include the names of the songs or the scenes in the musical. Quite frankly, this oversight is simply puzzling. However, among the songs, these are not only memorable but drive the plot of the musical forward: “When Someone Comes into Your Life;” “If I Never Got to Tell You;” “Don’t Wanna Lose You;” “Coming Out of the Dark;” and the powerful “Mega Mix” at the curtain call.
Under Jerry Mitchell’s able direction, the cast is uniformly brilliant. Stand out performances are those by Ana Villafne (Gloria), Josh Segarra (Emilio), Andrea Burns (Gloria Fajardo), Alma Cuervo (Consuelo), and Eliseo Roman (Jose Fajardo). Mr. Fajardo delivers an authentic performance as Gloria’s father and Mr. Segarra will be missed after July 12, 2016. His unassuming performance as Estefan is perhaps the emotional core of the entire ensemble cast.
David Rockwell’s set is splendid as is Kenneth Posner’s lighting. ESosa’s costumes are time and place appropriate and stunning to watch in motion. Sergio Trujillo’s choreography is brilliant, especially the over-the-top tap number in sandals!
“On Your Feet!” will be around for some time. Enjoy the music and the story and be inspired.