Just in time to create some heat for a chilly St. Louis, The Fabulous Fox welcomes On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan. This is the first U.S. tour of the production since the show left the bright lights of Broadway in August. The tour will play 60 cities, with its schedule stretching into 2019.
The jukebox musical focuses on the legendary career of the Grammy Award-winning duo of Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Starting from her childhood, Gloria (Christie Prades) grows up in Little Havana, a neighborhood in Miami. While her father, José (Jason Martinez), serves in Vietnam, she helps her mother, Gloria (Nancy Ticotin), run the house and care for her sister Rebecca (Claudia Yanez). Gloria’s grandmother, Consuelo (Alma Cuervo), introduces Gloria to Emilio (Mauricio Martínez), who is the leader of a local music group called The Miami Latin Boys. Sparks fly and Emilio invites Gloria to attend a rehearsal of his group.
As the romance between Emilio and Gloria grows, so does the disdain Gloria’s mother has towards Emilio. Knowing firsthand the heartbreak of the entertainment industry, she tries to force Gloria to follow her original plan of becoming a psychologist. The Miami Latin Boys become more popular due to Gloria’s vocals and charisma. They achieve success in the Latin market and plan to crossover to the mainstream music industry.
As in most musical careers, Gloria and Emilio hit glass ceilings due to the inherent prejudices of the entertainment industry. Told they need to concentrate on their Latin fans, the duo work day and night to get their music in front of the people who can take them to the next level. The hustle pays off as Gloria’s talent is undeniable and the group takes off—then tragedy strikes.
On the way to a gig, Gloria’s tour bus is struck by a semi-trailer and the singer becomes paralyzed. With her musical career in jeopardy, her family, fans, and friends surround her with love as she undergoes a risky spine surgery. Against all odds, Gloria goes through intensive physical therapy and eventually makes her way back to the stage—at Dick Clark’s personal request—at the American Music Awards.
I don’t feel I am ruining the ending since these were real-life events which affected me as a young man. Being an Estefan fan ever since her video for “Conga” debuted on MTV in 1985, I was always impressed by the singer’s unique ability to make me feel like she was singing just to me. She has chutzpah, charisma, and the ability to fuse her performances with genuine emotion.
That fact is why On Your Feet! Works—the music of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine was music full of joy and passion. Each of the songs performed in the show has the same enthusiasm which Estefan infused in her original performances. That’s what is missing in today’s music—joy. I may be dating myself, but songs like, “Anything For You,” “Here We Are,” and “Get On Your Feet” could give any of today’s pop stars a run for their money.
Prades’ performance as the iconic singer was extraordinary. Her energy, pitch, and devotion were all top notch as I was completely hypnotized by her voice. Combine her immense talent with her ability to give her character depth and perform the intricate choreography and Prades is a triple-threat. Prades’ co-star, Martínez, as Emilio, was equally remarkable. When Martínez went to his upper range, my heart stopped. The passion he imbued his performance with was palpable. He brought the heat both vocally and physically, as the chemistry between the two leads was enchanting.
In fact, every actor in this production turned in a magnificent performance. Cuervo’s performance was hilarious and unforgettable, Ticotin perfectly embodied the role of a Latin mother (stern but caring) and all the child actors in this production deserve a standing ovation.
While the performances were all fantastic, there was another star of this show: the choreography. Sergio Trujillo’s movements were what I would call death-defying. While there were more twirls, swirls, and lifts than I could count, it was the meticulous attention to detail which really gave the dance numbers spice. Performing breathtaking moves, most of which I have never seen before, the dancers were so technical and highly skilled that if they were just an inch off their mark, it would have been physically tragic. Fortunately, this troupe of dancers was on their game and no sequins came to harm. More than once, I, along with the entire Fox audience gasped aloud at these beautiful movements. To say they were inspiring would be an understatement—these movements encouraged me to samba, rumba, and cha cha all the way back to my car.
A tip of my hat also goes to the talented orchestra which graced the stage. When you have a singer like Estefan (in this case Prades) whose voice can fill an auditorium, only a full orchestra can give the rich, full sound her voice deserves. Bravo to each of the amazing performers in this orchestra as they took the songs of Estefan to the next level.
The appeal of On Your Feet! is how it serves as escapism theatre. While we as a country are dealing with extremely soul-wrenching events almost daily, it was therapeutic to forget our troubles for a couple of hours as Estefan’s music filled our hearts with hope and joy. It’s easy to get lost in the sentiments of her music and to be inspired by her own personal story of determination. On Your Feet! will make you get off your butt as you dance the night away to some of Estefan’s biggest hits. Just make sure to get your tickets soon—word of the sexy Latin heat in this production will spread like wildfire and you don’t want to see your chance for tickets go up in smoke. │Jim Ryan
On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan plays The Fabulous Fox through November 19th. For show times and ticket prices, please visit www.fabulousfox.com.