"The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical turned me into a fan." ~ Mike Woody
Prior to seeing ‘On Your Feet!’ if I had made a list of musicians that I’d like to see a musical about, Gloria Estefan would not even be on it. Weird Al would be at the top. I wondered, why her? I figured it must be a posthumous honor, but *Spoiler Alert* Gloria Estefan is still very much alive. The spirit of her Latin rhythmed music now also lives within me as ‘On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical’ turned me into a fan.
More than just a collection of Estefan’s greatest hits, the show really benefits from a strong storyline. ‘On Your Feet!’ is a true rags to riches story about a pair of immigrants who defied the odds and fought against racial injustice to succeed. It also contains heart-wrenching family drama and a tragic accident that leaves Gloria nearly permanently paralyzed.
The translation of perfecto is Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan. Her voice is beautiful in any language, and her dancing is as equally impressive. With the amount of energy that radiates from Prades voice, I wouldn’t be surprised if even a 12-inch ruler showed its flexibility during songs like ‘Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.’ I was also amazed by her quick changes into lavish outfits. There were multiple times when Prades reappeared in a new costume without me even noticing she left the stage.
I had never even heard of Emilio before, but he’s now unforgettable after the portrayal by Eddie Noel, and certainly not because of the white tight shorts. Initially I wondered why Emilio’s name was in the title, as Gloria’s the star, but he’s the backbone of the story. While Noel’s voice is also flawless, it’s the dramatic weight he carries that really stands out, especially when confronting the record producer.
Also strong in voice and attitude is Gloria’s mother, Gloria Fajardo, played by Nancy Ticotin. A former singer herself, she resents her daughter’s success. Ticotin’s tongue serves as both a lethal weapon when cutting Gloria down to size and as a priceless treasure when she sings.
Musically speaking a stand-out scene is the end of the first act with ‘Conga.’ From a bar mitzvah to an Italian wedding the appeal of the Conga is shown. The energy in the building certainly raises a few levels from the music and dazzling light show, as a myriad of colors flash from the stage. I thought I was in Las Vegas for a minute from all the neon. In a nice tough, the cast congas directly into the audience and may select you to dance with.
A scene that resonates equally but on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum is in the hospital after the tragic bus accident. Emilio fearing a future without Gloria is a hard reminder that there are no guarantees for tomorrow so fully appreciate our loved ones today. Part of what makes the accident so sad is that it’s real life and not something just added for dramatic effect. It does add plenty of drama though, especially when Gloria, the mother, appears to reconnect with her daughter.
My only complaint about ‘On Your Feet,’ which is also kind of a compliment, is that I would have liked to seen more. The romance between Gloria and Emilio is kind of glossed over, though we are given a fireworks moment between them. I also feel like Gloria’s recovery was rushed, but I totally understand the time restraints. On the bright side, I can’t think of anything that should have been cut. I do recommend bringing some sunglasses because in a couple instances the lighting was nearly blinding.
I am pretty confident that others out there aren’t particularly big fans of Gloria Estefan and are unsure about the show. Trust me, ‘On Your Feet’ will turn you into a fan and will have you up and dancing by the end.
1093: Company of the National Tour, ON YOUR FEET! © Matthew Murphy
1945: Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, Adriel Flete and Company, ON YOUR FEET! © Matthew Murphy
2431: Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and Company, ON YOUR FEET! © Matthew Murphy