The rhythm is gonna get you! Expect to find yourself dancing in your seat, because the energy from this show is infectious. On Your Feet! at the Kennedy Center is electric, and audience members sitting on the aisle didn’t hesitate when they were invited to jump into a conga line before intermission.
The musical focuses on the career beginnings and family influences on Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Christie Prades and Mauricio Martinez are delightfully compelling in the parts and the Estefan’s building romance and sustained partnership are lovingly portrayed. Prades voices Gloria beautifully in both ballads and dance numbers, and Emilio is irresistibly charming, providing wit and humor with impeccable comedic timing. While the show is about a real couple, it has larger resonance as it reflects the shifting Latino experience with the American Dream in recent decades. It was not just the Latinos in the audience who roared approval when Emilio describes himself, saying, “This is what an American looks like.”
Gloria Estefan has been called the greatest Latin cross-over artist of all time (by Oprah, no less), and Emilio has helped shape the careers of other stars such as Shakira, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, and Jon Secada. In 2015, the couple was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and this December, Gloria was one of the five recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors. Last night, the diverse and multi-aged audience was a little celebrity-struck when Gloria and Emilio arrived to watch the performance.
The casting team found a wealth of great voices, all of whom can also salsa and conga like nobody’s business. The cast of more than 30 is filled with lovely voices, and the ensemble is constantly moving, shifting from specific characters to backup singers and dancers.
In supporting leads, Nancy Ticotin plays Gloria’s mother, a brilliant talent in her own right, but struggling with her daughter’s transition to a professional performer and megastar. Playing Gloria’s father in a flashback, Jason Martinez brings a glorious controlled tenor to his wistful ballad that hints at his disbelief in ever seeing his daughter’s success. A clear audience favorite is Alma Cuervo as Gloria’s wise and witty grandmother, Consuelo.
As it first did in the 1980s, the music captivates you. Fans will recognize the hits, and the orchestra has many of the of original Miami Sound Machine members playing familiar percussion and horn licks. It is undeniably catchy. The show which ran on Broadway for almost 750 performances shares the design for the tour. Scenic design by David Rockwell shifts the stage from an intimate space to a concert venue as fast as the actors can do a quick change of costumes. And boy, do Emilio Sosa’s costumes look good. Well, so did everything about this production. It is a winner, well worth seeing before it leaves DC.
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes including one 20-minute intermission.