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On Your Feet - Theatre Review


By Bill Garry


Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and
Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and Company,
ON YOUR FEET!
Photo © Matthew Murphy

On Your Feet, the musical now playing at the Pantages, starts at 110% and never lets up. Chronicling the life of pop superstar Gloria Estefan, the show packs infectious beats, swirling dance numbers, and passion into -- literally -- every corner of the theater.

The first act is wall-to-wall music, taking us from Havana, where little Gloria Fajardo and her family are enjoying life before the Cuban Revolution, to the cusp of superstardom in Miami. She meets, and falls in love with, Emilio Estefan, a Miami bandleader who encourages her talent.


Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and Company,
ON YOUR FEET!
Photo © Matthew Murphy
Along the way, they fight a little racism and deal with a few family problems. But not too deeply, for this is a jukebox musical that wants to keep the audience in high spirits. The act ends with a hilarious scene of Gloria and band performing "Conga" at a bar mitzvah, Italian wedding, and Shriner's convention.

The second act is where we get more angst, including the 1990 bus accident where Gloria almost loses her life. There are two beautiful numbers here -- "Wrapped," which represents Gloria's dreams during her 9-hour surgery, and "Reach," where her fans sing of the love and admiration they have for her. These two very moving numbers reveal the show's, and Gloria's, real, beating heart. (My own heart could have used those numbers earlier in the show, but my feet didn't miss them.)


Company of the National Tour,
ON YOUR FEET!
Photo © Matthew Murphy

What's also heartwarming about the show is that it presents the Estefans as an average American, hard-working, immigrant family with average American problems: mother-in-law pained by having had to give up her dreams to take care of her disabled husband, kid sister hanging out with the wrong friends. Fortunately, there's a wise grandma who shows up when we need her.

Jerry Mitchell (direction) and Sergio Trujillo (choreography) capture the spontaneity of Havana and Miami and the athletic dance numbers the band became famous for. Alexander Dinelaris (book) and Emilio and Gloria Estefan (musics and lyrics) keep the show light -- there are 25 hits to squeeze in, after all.

Christie Prades and Mauricio Martinez do an excellent job of presenting the talent and energy of Gloria and Emilio. But the show is stolen by Carlos Carreras and Jordan Vergara (young boys who alternate in a myriad of roles, including the Estefan's son, Nayib) and Debra Cardona (Abuela Consuelo). Which is fitting, since this show is as much a celebration of family as it is of the music.

On Your Feet is playing at the Hollywood Pantages through July 29. 




Posted By Bill Garry on July 16, 2018 12:36 pm | Permalink