ON YOUR FEET!THE EMILIO & GLORIA ESTEFAN BROADWAY MUSICAL
Written by Academy Award® Winner Alexander Dinelaris
Based on the Life and Music of 26-Time Grammy Award-Winning Music Icons Emilio & Gloria Estefan
Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Directed by Two-Time Tony Award® Winner Jerry Mitchell
Associate Director-Andy Señor, Jr.
Choreographed by Tony Nominee & Olivier Award Winner Sergio Trujillo
Associate Choreographers—Maria Torres and Natalie Caruncho
Scenic Design—David Rockwell
Costume Design—Emilio Sosa
Lighting Design—Kenneth Posner
Sound Design—SCK Sound Design
Projection Design—Darrel Maloney
Casting by Telsey + Company
Wig and Hair Design—Charles G. LaPointe
Music Coordinator—Patrick Vaccariello
Music Direction—Clay Ostwald
Orchestrations—Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan
Additional Orchestrations--Clay Ostwald and Jorge Casas
Dance Music Arrangements and Dance Orchestrations—Oscar Hernandez
General Manager—Troika Entertainment and Karen Berry
Nayib/Jeremy/Young Emilio—Jordan Vergara
Little Gloria—Carmen Sanchez
José Fajardo—Jose Rosario, Jr.
Gloria Fajardo—Nancy Ticotin
Guitarristas—Jonathan Arana, David Baida, Sam J. Cahn
Big Paquito—David Baida
American DJ—Sam J. Cahn
Latin DJ—David Baida
Warren—Sam J. Cahn
Dr. Neuwirth—Devon Goffman
Ensemble—Anthony Alfaro, Jonathan Arana, David Baida, Sam J. Cahn, Shadia Fairuz, Adriel Flete, Yesy Garcia, Devon Goffman, Alejandra Matos, Claudia Mulet, Marina Pires, Jeremy Adam Rey, Gabriel Reyes, Joseph Rivera, Maria Rodriguez, Shani Talmor, Claudia Yanez
Reviewed Performance: 4/10/2019
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
This hit musical opened on Broadway in 2015. In this production of On Your Feet!, Gloria is played by the Cuban-American actress Christie Prades, and Emilio Estefan is played by the Puerto Rican breakthrough artist Eddie Noel. Broadway veterans Nancy Ticotin and Jose Rosaria, Jr. star as Gloria’s parents. The blockbuster cast of musical talent is rounded out by television and stage actress Debra Cardona as Gloria’s grandmother.
From the beginning, the audience knows that we will be treated to jubilant live music and lavish dance numbers. The curtain opens to the on-stage orchestra. We see Gloria Estefan juggling her professional and personal obligations, one of the themes that runs through this cohesive and touching story. Gloria and Emilio both ask their young son, played by the marvelously swift-footed dance prodigy Jordan Vergara, whether he has finished his homework. In an exchange that will become meaningful in the second act, the married couple discuss their very busy schedule before Gloria has to return to the stage.
A young Gloria, played by the dulcet-voiced Carmen Sanchez, emerges with a guitar as she serenades in Spanish. The setting quickly changes to Vietnam in 1966; her father, played by the handsome crooner Rosaria, is listening to his daughter on a tape recorder before recording his own message home.
The scene shifts to the lively Miami neighborhood of Gloria’s childhood, where she is tempted from her laundry duties by singing and dancing neighbors. The original choreography here and elsewhere amazes, particularly the employment of white handkerchiefs and straw boaters. It is made clear that Gloria, as the older child, bears her familial responsibilities well.
This musical is surely a vehicle for hit popular songs brought to life in well-choreographed numbers executed by Broadway-pedigreed dancers in a changing array of dazzling costumes. All of the stars have gorgeous voices. Prades also dances – I mean she jumps – in high heels. The live music, singing, and dancing are worth the price of admission alone. In addition to all of this pure fun, this production serves up a touching story of family ties and explores the meaning of loyalty, the ripple effects of displacement, and strategies for survival.
The first meeting, romance, marriage, and true partnership between Gloria and Emilio is a driving force of the narrative, with the differences in their personalities culminating in a relationship in which the two compliment each other. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Gloria starts out as a natural singer and composer, but with an introverted streak that causes her to eschew the limelight. She wants to study psychology. It is her grandmother Consuelo, gloriously played with appropriate gravitas, and frequent comic effect, by a commanding Debra Cardona, who arranges the first meeting between Emilio and Gloria, pushing her granddaughter to pursue her true passion. From there, Emilio’s ambitions catapult Gloria onto a world stage.
Through the use of a flashback to Havana, in which the marvelous Nancy Ticotin is the reigning diva of the hopping supper club scene, we see that Gloria’s mother had the makings of the star that her daughter is destined to become. Consuelo cannot forgive herself for not fighting for her daughter’s singing career—she could have been the Spanish voice for Shirley Temple. Consuelo’s husband (whom we never meet) refused to allow his daughter to travel to California “like gypsies.”
Gloria’s mother repeats the “like gypsies” insult as she faces her own broken dreams and bristles at the nomadic lifestyle that Gloria and Emilio have adopted in order to promote Gloria’s skyrocketing stardom.
The title, On Your Feet!, reverberates with symbolism. We see the struggles of characters who permanently or temporarily cannot get on their feet. Gloria’s beloved father, once a strong and strapping member of the armed forces in Vietnam, is reduced to his bed by the ravages of MS.
But thematic exploration of mobility does not end there. In addition to the cost of losing mobility, this play explores what is too much of it. In their worldwide tour, Emilio by chance returns to the terminal in Madrid where he, as a young boy, departed from his own family in a pilgrimage to Miami from Cuba; it is a sad memory. Yet, it is Emilio, ever the extrovert, who is energized by the packed schedule of life in the tour bus. Before a fateful night, Gloria explains that she is tired and feels that in their travels they leave something behind. Emilio sees the flip side of that coin, reveling in the richness of new experiences.
This musical also traces Emilio’s triumph as a producer. The record company executive, Phil (played by a very funny Devon Goffman), is an arrogant phony who cannot tell good music from a hole in the ground. The ever-studious Gloria has read their contract, but to no avail. Phil pivots from unctuous humor (his sister scares him; “she has a mustache”), to nasty threats (he has an army of lawyers one floor up), at the first sign that someone is saying something he does not want to hear (the wig people could use some orange here; just sayin’). Contract or no, Phil will not give the Miami Sound Machine a recording in English. Emilio moves into Phil’s space and, pointing at Emilio’s own face, yells, “This is what America looks like.” The audience at Bass Performance Hall erupted into cheers.
The Fajardo and Estefan clan is consistently portrayed as following the pole star of hard work. Stymied by the record company, the endlessly energetic Gloria and Emilio creatively forge their own way to get their music heard. We are treated to fun-filled action and an almost dizzying array of scene changes as Gloria and Emilio churn through one bar mitzvah and wedding after another to promote their music. Cardona is a delicious scene-stealer: who doesn’t love a grandmother in a trench coat and dark glasses plying homemade baked goods for favors? Emilio does not give up on convincing Phil, and ultimately prevails. “How do you sit down with balls that size?” Phil eventually asks him.
In addition to the numerous sparkling dance costumes that bestow a consistently entertaining visual feast, there are some comic late Twentieth Century throw backs, including white shorts and a Miami Vice look-alike.
The soaring set allows for consistently lightening-fast scene changes. Rotating panels feature a design of wooden louver windows and doors reminiscent of Miami and Havana, the home cities of the main characters and the settings for much of the action. Later, this motif is replaced with a thousand pieces of fan mail.
The projections display beautiful designs and seamlessly cue time and place changes. The lighting is excellent and frequently adds to the drama. At one point in the second act, the combined effect of the lighting and sound effects is absolutely terrifying.
It is always a pleasure to enjoy a performance at Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall, with its classic European opera house form and winged angel motif. The iconic feathers are everywhere, even on the festive uniforms of the cheery ushers.
This production is an enormous crowd pleaser. Many people could be heard humming the “do the conga” tune at intermission, and the crowd was smiling all the way to the parking garage. This show does a tremendous job of weaving flashy musical numbers with a poignant tale of love and survival. I highly recommend it for the entire family.
THE EMILIO & GLORIA ESTEFAN BROADWAY MUSICAL
Performing Arts Fort Worth
April 10-14, 2019: April 11 at 1:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.; April 12 at 7:30 p.m.; April 13 at 1:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.; April 14 at 1:30 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.
Bass Performance Hall
525 Commerce Street, Fort Worth, Texas
For information and Tickets call (817) 212-4280 or go to http://bassperformance.hallfortworth.org/?msclkid=f9b0cdf7d6c9146e7566915891d76cb6.