ON YOUR FEET: THE EMILIO & GLORIA ESTEFAN BROADWAY MUSICAL
Dallas Summer Musicals
Gloria Estefan-Music, Lyrics, Orchestration
Emilio Estefan-Music, Lyrics, Orchestrations
David Rockwell-Set Design
Emilio Sosa-Costume Design
Kenneth Posner-Lighting Design
SCK Sound Design-Sound Design
Darrel Maloney-Video/Projection Design
Charles G. LaPointe-Hair & Wig Design
Clay Ostwald-Music Director
Andy Señor Jr.-Associate Director
Maria Torres-Associate Choreographer
Natalie Caruncho-Associate Choreographer
Nancy Ticotin-Gloria Fajardo
Jason Martinez-José Fajardo
Amaris Sanchez-Little Gloria
Carmen Sanchez-Little Gloria
Kevin Tellez-Nayib/Young Emilio/Jeremy
Jordan Vergara-Nayib/Young Emilio/Jeremy
Karmine Alers-Ensemble, u/s Gloria Fajardo, Consuelo
Skizzo Arnedillo-Dance Captain, Swing
Danny Burgos-Ensemble, u/s Emilio
Sam J. Cahn-Ensemble, Swing
Natalie Caruncho-Associate Choreographer / Ensemble
Jennifer Florentino-Assistant Dance Captain/Swing
Devon Goffman-Phil, Dr. Neuwirth, Ensemble
Claudia Mulet-Ensemble, u/s Gloria Fajardo, Consuelo
Eddie Noel-Ensemble, u/s Emilio
Marina Pires-Ensemble, Swing, u/s Gloria
Jeremey Adam Rey-Ensemble
Claudia Yanez-Rebecca, Ensemble, u/s Gloria
Reviewed Performance: 2/28/2018
Reviewed by John Garcia, Senior Chief Theater Critic/Editor/Founder, THE COLUMN. Member, AMERICAN THEATRE CRITICS ASSOCIATION for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
If you expect producers are going to spend millions of dollars just to have a singer duplicate an international famous singer's vocals for two hours, throw some stage lights on them and call it a night-you must be cray cray! Coming to Broadway in its near future are musicals about Donna Summer, Cher, and The Go-Gos. While in London there is one being created about Tina Turner. All using their music catalogues. Earlier this season Dallas Summer Musicals brought Dance diva Deborah Cox in the title role of The Bodyguard the musical, using Whitney Houston's catalogue of music. The ONLY two elements all these musicals have in common is that they have female leads and are using the catalogues of legendary female artists. THAT IS IT. They are NOT trying to imitate their vocals. Why would they?
But something is happening at the Music Hall. Do you want to see a musical that in a rare feat is stepping outside of the box that confines and kills most jukebox musicals? Not only that but that it holds emotionally connecting both book and the catalogue of music? A piece that transcends all nationalities to show just what challenging work, adversity, and the struggles it takes to succeed in this great nation, but to still respect it and admire it with compassion? A musical that brings most of its cast from the Broadway company! That is unheard of! Finally, do you want to see the hottest, sexiest, and most riveting couple to ever grace the music hall stage?! You will find all of this wrapped up in the sensational production of the national tour On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway musical, which is now playing at the Music Hall in Fair Park.
I've been a fan of Gloria Estefan's music back to her Miami Sound Machine dance club days. Her music has crossed into ballads, pop, and full Spanish albums. This was the first clue that made me realize this was the typical jukebox format. The creators used lesser known works besides her global smash hits, including her Spanish songs that were hits to her Latino fans. This gave the scenes in Cuba, the flashbacks, and the interactions between each other such authenticity, dignity, and respect. One of the best numbers of the evening in fact was "Con Los Afios Que Me Quedan".
When the musical opened on Broadway I read a couple of the reviews from the New York critics and thought "okay". I would make my own opinion when I saw it. Jukebox musicals can be so awful you wish the genre would stop. Alexander Dinelarius's book for On Your Feet went far that. Because Estefan wrote the music, and this was her and her husband's life, the book slipped into the lyrics softly and beautifully. All evening it felt like the book was a giant jigsaw puzzle on stage and the songs were the pieces that fit in as the story progressed on. There were some hearty laughter, a lush, hot romance, and tragedy of real life. Never pandering, just reality. There was a striking, vivid dose of reality when Emilio (Mauricio Martinez) went face to face with the white record producer and said, "This is the face of America!" and the Music Hall erupted into loud cheers and applause! Don't think a book of a jukebox musical has done that before.
Jerry Mitchell's direction once again proves why he has become one of the most sought-after directors on Broadway. For On Your Feet he directed this piece with a soft pastel canvas. It is vividly clear he wanted the romance and the battles the Estefans faced as Cuban immigrants trying to get their music heard as the arc of the subtext. He kept the humor light but with a good zinger here and there, but that the harsh ugly reality would not be covered up. Thanks to the use of marvelous projections and swirling towering panels the scenery allowed the time periods to move at brisk speed, thus not allowing hiccups within its pace. Hel brings superior performances from his entire cast. Mitchell is one busy man. On Broadway, he has Kinky Boots performing, while on tour he has On Your Feet, and currently in Chicago he is buried in rehearsals getting ready for his next Broadway show, Pretty Woman The Musical! Not many Directors of that epic pedigree are left on the Great White Way.
Sergio Trujillo's choreography is OUT OF THIS WORLD, GALVANIZING, ASTOUNDING! And yes, that is all in caps! I mean talk about mind boggling, sensual, erotic, athletic, and electrifying! The dancers' technique is like liquid artistry. Their arms, hips, thighs, ankles, and legs are always in perfect position in every single friggin number! I was sitting quite close, so I watched like a hawk! And not one dancer was out of sync! Mr. Trujillo paid PROFOUND respect to la cumbia, salsa, Paso doble, and other forms of Latin Dance. You could see detailed research in his choreography. These dancers go from classic Latin to ballroom, hard core percussion, dance club mix, even wooden flip flops! These are phenomenal dancers. Their energy, precision, passion, and execution of the choreography shows the audience why the art of dancer and choreographer was created.
This tour de force ensemble is remarkable. Many of them come from the actual Broadway production. They had to have a dance background on a plethora of Latin dances and technique. Add to that the ability to sing clearly in English and Spanish. Now add natural acting tools. That is NOT your normal ensemble! And yet Jerry Mitchell and Sergio Trujillo found the best of the best here! This ensemble is powerful like a mighty lion. They go into the wings after dancing up a storm in one number and immediately return within seconds in a whole new costume without a hint of losing breath ready to dance and sing all over again. The way they contort and move their bodies to the beats of that pulsating, hot and intense percussion on stage was SENSATIONAL! They knocked me out my seat! The vocalists of the ensemble had their moment in Act Two with the emotional "Reach" that had the audience cheering with applause. If the Tony awards committee created a new category for Best ensemble in a Musical, it was because they saw this very ensemble.
Within the supporting performances there is rich, solid layered work provided as well. Jason Martinez portrays Jose Fajardo, Gloria's father. He dearly loved his daughter while in Vietnam. Martinez has a soothing tenor vocal that has a duet with his daughter later that was deeply moving. Nancy Ticotin delivers an outstanding performance as Gloria Fajardo, Gloria's mother. Ticotin is clearly the stricter parent. Like a hawk with sharp talons she protects her two daughters from Emilio the second he meets her daughters. But as the story and music takes us deeper, we discover more of her past as a young woman. There we see Ticotin perform a dazzling cumbia number that shows her million-dollar legs! Ms. Ticotin gives her characterization this subtext of cold steel. In Act Two she and Emilio (Mauricio Martinez) sing a powerful duet titled "If I Never Got to Tell You" that tears open the mother's heart wide open. Ticotin is remarkable in this production. Stealing scenes is Debra Cardona as Consuelo, the grandmother. Cardona relishes great fun as she works as either the agent to get her granddaughter Gloria's music to Emilio, or later sees that there is a connection there other than music! In a jovial scene she even works as a music hustler! In several scenes she has the one punch line that slays the audience and Cardona knows exactly how to use her comedic timing, pace, and delivery to nail it!
Chemistry is EVERYTHING for me when it comes to romance on stage. Both as an actor and a critic, I can detect fake, bland romance. When it's not there, it's going to be long night for the three of us. There are some good couples that can get through it. But then (if you are lucky) you see a musical that has a couple that has that chemistry that is hot, intense, and real. You believe and invest in their love, romance, and marriage. That is exactly what happens when you see Christie Prades and Mauricio Martinez as Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Simply observe their subtext. When they first meet, there is a faint hint of attraction. But during their first song, you slowly see the glint of the ember. But when that flame heats up it grows into passion and fire. That's when you see it in their eyes and body. There is a simple touch or a hand lingering there. Prades and Martinez make a striking couple who will have the entire music hall audience fall in love with them. They make a smoldering sensual couple on stage!
Mauricio Martinez perfectly has mastered Emilio's accent, staccato, and bass tone of his voice. I'm sure those in the audience who have not heard Emilio in interviews were wondering why Martinez was speaking that way! Martinez's comedic timing was perfection as he hit those zingers all evening long. Martinez dramatic intensity and passion was riveting when it came on confronting racism or the barriers that blocked him and his wife from achieving success. It was emotional as reality seeped onto the stage as Emilio fought being an immigrant, coming to America to make a life, and having to leave his parents. Martinez released such pride, pain, and raw emotion. Martinez possesses a luxurious tenor voice that wafts on a vibrato that he controls with great strength. It was a surprise when he sang his first number because he spoke with such a deep voice and out poured this high tenor voice. And the man knows how to shake his hips! During the curtain call dance mix (I was seated in the orchestra section) I swore I saw some women (and men) scream and faint when Martinez danced and swerved and swirled his hips. Martinez commands the stage with a masculine stage presence that is dynamic. He has the inner qualities that Emilio has that would take no for an answer against intolerance. Martinez delivers a commanding, superlative performance.
Critics shouldn't say this, but let's break more rules here. Let's get the obvious part out of the way, yes, it is true, Christie Prades completely stole my heart the same way Gloria Estefan did when I saw her in concert. Prades is physically captivating. The second she steps on stage in that iconic Estefan costume you are mesmerized. She is a stunning woman with alluring eyes and magnetic stage presence. The audience immediately zeroes on her. And then she pours out that voice! Prades vocals are a powder keg that explodes on the stage. There is no genre of music set before her that she cannot handle. Pop, mambo, salsa, cumbia, power ballads, dance music, disco, etc. she NAILS IT! Oh, and the girl can do it in Spanish and English effortlessly! Prades goes through Estefan's historic music catalogue with her own resplendent vocal and emotional interpretation that grips the very core of every lyric and note. There are just so many numbers that Prades sings in the musical that has the audience cheering and screaming with loud applause. When Prades appears for the American Music Awards scene for "Coming Out of the Dark" in the exact same blue satin gown that Estefan wore on the telecast, I felt my throat tighten. I remember watching the telecast that night. It was her first time to sing in front of the world since her bus crash. Prades brings out the subtext of how Estefan felt that night, and then sings with full belt strength and courage that song needed, as the world gave her a standing ovation that night. You can clearly see why Jerry Mitchell, Gloria and Emilio Estefan found this mighty talent to not only cover this role on Broadway but to then put this national tour on her shoulders. Christie Prades is giving a legend in the making performance.
Three members of the touring orchestra are members of the Miami Sound Machine. There are twelve orchestra members that travel with this national tour. I state this in my review because OHMIGOD this orchestra is HEART THUMPING FREAKING LIVE CONCERT AWESOME! The percussion and horns are so slick and sizzling hot I could not stop my head and feet from swaying back and forth. Because so much of this music was dance music and heavy percussion and horn, bringing it live made the music so thrilling spectacular!
On a personal note: 98% of this cast is Latin American. This makes logical sense due to the material once you see it. Throughout the evening the way the company reacted emotionally with their faces and voices spoke volumes on how they connected much deeper with the material. That happens with all musical theater. Example: Religious musicals touch different people.
Gloria and Emilio Estefan are both champions and fighters for the rights for all Americans and the American dream. As I watched the musical unfold and how it switched flawlessly from Spanish to English, I saw my family on stage. The language just came natural to me in music and book. Then it hit me. When was the last time I saw a musical with an almost all Latino cast, singing and speaking in both languages? Then when the material spoke of the American dream it again hit home. Isn't that what we-and I mean-we ALL are after. I got choked up. To see all those beautiful Latino faces on one stage in a National Tour, I was moved to tears. This company made me so, so proud to be a Latin American.
You will see Over HALF of this cast is from the ORIGINAL Broadway company! That hardly ever happens in national tours. On Your Feet is a stupendous musical that is steers completely outside the confinements of the jukebox musical. Yes, it will make you want to do the conga, but it will move your heart and remind you that we all want the same thing, the American dream and that we are all Americans.
ON YOUR FEET-THE EMILIO & GLORIA ESTEFAN BROADWAY MUSICAL (National Tour)
Through March 11, 2018
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