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On Your Feet!

“Conga” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” are featured in this shrewdly formulaic and exuberant jukebox musical about Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

Ana Villafañe, Josh Segarra and cast in a scene from the new musical “On Your Feet!” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Ana Villafañe, Josh Segarra and cast in a scene from the new musical “On Your Feet!” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

“Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” is played by the band at the beginning of On Your Feet! “Conga” is a triumphant production number with the cast going through the theater’s aisles picking audience members to dance with them.  This exuberant and shrewdly conceived formulaic jukebox musical about the lives of Gloria and Emilio Estefan contains all of their hits with Miami Sound Machine.

The excellence of Alexander Dinelaris’ book leads the production’s creative elements that are all equally accomplished. Mr. Dinelaris has perfectly structured biographical events into precisely shaped non-linear scenes.  His polished dialogue ranges from comical to emphatic and well suits all of the characters.

Sergio Trujillo’s exhilarating choreography is a ceaseless extravaganza of mostly Salsa numbers.   The costumes by designer ESosa are appropriately heavy on glitz.  David Rockwell’s seemingly simple and highly creative set design chiefly consists of textured white panels on which muted projections and videos are shown.  Designed by Darrel Maloney, these are a captivating assemblage of palm trees, stucco houses and skies that artfully depict Cuba, Miami, and other locales.  Kenneth Posner’s crisp lighting design further enhances the show’s vivid visual qualities.

Jerry Mitchell’s assured direction has melded all of these attributes into a solid and entertaining show.  A striking sequence is the harrowing depiction of the band’s tour bus accident in 1990.  Besides achieving a fast-paced and colorful presentation Mr. Mitchell has also realized compelling performances from the large and well-selected ensemble of dynamic singing actors and dancers.

Ana Villafañe superbly offers a rich characterization as Gloria.  Not only does Ms. Villafañe amazingly resembles and sounds like her, she sings those familiar songs with her own unique flair.  More importantly she gives a fully dimensional performance rather then a rote impersonation.

Alma Cuervo as Gloria’s grandmother Consuelo and Andréa Burns as her mother Gloria Fajardo in a scene from the new musical “On Your Feet!” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Alma Cuervo as Gloria’s grandmother Consuelo and Andréa Burns as her mother Gloria Fajardo in a scene from the new musical “On Your Feet!” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Bearded, athletic and utilizing a husky voice, the very talented Josh Segarra is the epitome of the fiery Latin striver.  Mr. Segarra and Ms. Villafañe passionate chemistry together is energizing and makes them seem like a real couple.

Alma Cuervo is delightful as Gloria’s beneficent grandmother.  This veteran New York stage actress brings depth and a twinkling charm to the role and winningly joins in during the singing and dancing.  Andréa Burns as Gloria’s mother poignantly conveys the bitterness of a woman who had to give up her own show business dreams. Ms. Burns also is sensational in her musical numbers, particularly a nightclub flashback scene when she was young.

Gloria Fajardo and Emilio Estefan were both born in Cuba and raised in Miami, Florida, where they met in the 1970’s.  As a singer, she soon joined his band Miami Latin Boys, the forerunner of Miami Sound Machine.  They married in 1978 and had a son and a daughter.  Following wide success in the Latin market the Estefans and Miami Sound Machine crossed over to the general public beginning in 1984 with a lengthy series of high charting singles and albums.

Like Jersey Boys, On Your Feet! is a compendium of well-worn conventions that enduringly resonate. Here these include behind the scenes of the ups and downs of show business, nefarious music industry executives, a rocky love story, triumphing over physical adversity, and an inspirational finale bringing closure, all attractively packaged to a score comprised of a treasure of pop classics.

After the show ends and the audience is on their feet, there’s a festive and pulsing mini-concert of such covers as “Everlasting Love” and “Turn the Beat Around.”

On Your Feet! (through August 20, 2017)

Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway at 46th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 877-250-2929 or visit http://www.onyourfeetmusical.com

Running time: two hours and 30 minutes including one intermission

Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (377 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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