CelebMix Review: ‘On Your Feet!’ The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan

Following a phenomenally successful run on Broadway, and subsequent US theatre tour, ‘On Your Feet!’ the biographical jukebox musical charting the life and career of Emilio and Gloria Estefan takes up residency at the London Coliseum Theatre this summer.

Dazzling and energetic, heartfelt yet heartbreaking, uplifting, inspirational and REAL – the show is a no holds barred look at the incredible story of a young girl from Cuba, who took the road less travelled to find her own place in the world.

Open Your Eyes And See Who I Am…

As the lights go down to the sounds of rapturous cheers and applause, in what is officially known as London’s largest theatre, an onstage band of 10, led by musical director Clay Ostwald, perform an electrifying medley of Gloria Estefan’s biggest hits – setting the tone perfectly for what is to be an exhilarating night of unforgettable music and dance.

The productions minimalist set awash with bright warm summer colours, and scenic stage projections, is soon filled by the ‘On Your Feet!’ ensemble cast, all perfectly styled in costumes reminiscent of the 60’s era, the era in which the ‘On Your Feet!’ story begins…

Through a series of flashbacks we see a young Gloria Fajardo living life in Cuba, happy, carefree and at ease – singing, dancing and seemingly enjoying her surroundings with her family, close friends and neighbours; showing early promise that she could, and ultimately would, go on to achieve truly incredible things in her lifetime.

Following the Fajardo’s move to Miami, as a result of the Cuban Revolution, teenage Gloria enrols at the University of Miami to study Psychology, yet it is her love of music and natural flair for songwriting that seems to be this young woman’s true passion and calling in life.

Gently encouraged one night by Consuelo, Gloria’s hilarious Grandmother played by Karen Mann (the shows true breakout star), we see a shy, almost introverted Estefan take to the stage to perform a beautifully tender version of the 1988 ballad ‘Anything For You’ in front of a mesmerised audience made up of family, friends and music lovers… including a young man by the name of Emilio Estefan.

Throughout the course of Act I we see Emilio and Gloria’s love story unfold.

The couples professional, and personal, relationship develops throughout the 1970’s as they work tirelessly and fall hopelessly in love, becoming a formidable team, fighting together through their collective struggles, standing up to social and record industry prejudice and taking on closed minded naysayers who don’t have the foresight to see the musical duo’s potential and truly game changing vision for their future.

Emilio and Gloria’s self belief and faith in one another never falters, as they hustle and create nonstop, eventually making their way to the top, becoming international sensations and global music superstars.

But with great success, comes great pressure and even greater expectation…

Gloria Estefan ‘1-2-3’

So Much Stronger, Holding Your Hand.

Exhausted and growing tired of constantly living on the road, Gloria is persuaded by Emilio to undertake another US concert tour in support of her latest record ‘Cuts Both Ways’; a decision that ultimately leaves the now celebrated singer fighting for her life.

When a semi-truck crashes into the Estefan’s tour bus during a snowstorm near Scranton, Pennsylvania, Gloria is left critically injured. It is in this moment that ‘On Your Feet!’ switches tone and pace from being an upbeat, high-spirited piece of carefree musical theatre to a more somber, introspective, honest tale of what happens when a much loved global superstar, who seemingly has it all, comes face to face with her own mortality.

Exploring the strained relationship between Estefan and her Mother, we get to the real heart of the show during Act II, as Madalena Alberto (in the role of Mrs. Gloria Fajardo) performs the haunting ballad ‘If I never Got To Tell You’ as Gloria lies motionless in her hospital bed. Realising how close she is to losing her estranged daughter, there is not a dry eye in the house as she tenderly sings the lyrics ‘if I never got to tell you, there’s no way I could be prouder of the life that you’ve created, all the ways that you have grown… don’t think that you have all the time in the world to tell someone the reasons why you love them.

With the possibility that she may never walk again following intensive surgery on her spine, Gloria must muster all of the strength she can find to fight her way back to full health.

And that she does, triumphantly taking to the stage a mere 7 months later at the 1991 American Music Awards performing her global hit ‘Coming Out Of The Dark’.

Celebrating this incredible woman’s triumphant return to form and her exceptional career, the shows exhilarating closing number, an uptempo medley megamix of Estefan’s biggest hits including ‘Get on Your Feet’, ‘Turn the Beat Around’ and ‘Everlasting Love’ has the entire theatre out of their seats dancing.

The Rhythm IS Gonna Get You!

Sergio Trujillo’s innovative and exciting choreography brings the show to life, as the company’s well groomed troop of dancers perform intricate and complex routines with with passion and vigour – their joy for the art of dance being so contagious, that members of the already excitable audience can’t help but get ‘on their feet’ and dance in the aisles as members of the cast join them in the auditorium during an ensemble version of Estefan’s 1985 monster hit ‘Conga’.

“Step by step I’ll make it through, I know I can.”

– Gloria Estefan, ‘Coming Out Of The Dark’

Leading lady Christie Prades, captures the essence of Gloria’s character perfectly – conveying her spirit, strength and energy with ease… so much so, at times, it feels like you are watching Estefan herself.

Prades velvety vocals and powerful range shine throughout the 2 1/2 hour show, as she takes on each of her solo numbers with a confidence and presence most musical theatre performers can only dream of, effortlessly evoking a genuine pure emotion with each lyric she sings.

Know That I’ve Tried My Very Best, I Put My Spirit To The Test.

The story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan leaves you feeling like anything in life is possible. And that you too, can triumph over any kind of adversity with a strong inner belief that tomorrow will always be a brighter day no matter what may come your way.

‘On Your Feet!’ is a story of love, perseverance, acceptance and finding strength. It explores real issues of love, of family dynamic, estrangement and … as well as celebrating the back catalogue of a true music icon.

It is the music of the Estefan’s and The Miami Sound Machine that really drives the story forward, with each song perfectly placed to capture the mood of the moment as we see two young people take control of their destiny and create a life for themselves that no one thought possible.

You cannot help but love Gloria Estefan; her spirit, her strength and her talent. You cannot help but be inspired by Emilio; his tenacity, his determination and his dedication. And you cannot help but ‘get on your feet’ as this exceptional cast of performers perform this incredible new musical ‘On Your Feet!’.

‘On Your Feet!’ plays at the London Coliseum Theatre until August 31st  2019, before embarking on a UK tour, details of which can be found here.

Have you seen ‘On Your Feet!’? Which theatre shows are you hoping to see this summer? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter @CelebMix now.

Written by Philip Logan

Contact: logan_philip@hotmail.com
Twitter & IG: @philip_logan