It’s all about the songs! And Cuban immigrants Gloria Garcia Fajardo (a stunning Ana Villafane) and Emilio Estefan (a macho and sexy Josh Segarra). A real love story and a real crowd-pleaser. How they met. How they became so incredibly famous and how they overcame a near tragic accident. How they made the Miami Sound Machine’s unique Latino music International by crossing over from Spanish into English and back again.
By the time ON YOUR FEET! comes to its rip-roaring finale one wonders if you are standing and cheering for the actors portraying this couple or the couple themselves. It’s a fine blurred line drawn between real life and their amazingly talented counterparts on stage.
But where is the list of songs? You will have to search the program diligently for it is found after all the bios. But they are listed alphabetically – 26 in all! Then there are the Music Credits on the following page which is even longer.
All these irresistible songs leave little space for the story that is telescoped by book writer Alexander Dinelaris and awkwardly directed by Jerry Mitchell. The book seems to be an afterthought. It’s all about their songs. And so the scenes do their best to get to the next song – infusing some humor along the way.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. A joke about Emilio’s unfortunate white shorts and his difficulty with English and the three “amigos” with guitars are borderline. Then there are the two very touching and beautiful scenes – one with her sick dad and the other in the hospital. But somehow the story comes across as too slick to be real – although it is.
Having such a charmed life and sharing such a deep love personally and professionally isn’t very challenging except for that tragic accident – where Gloria miraculously recovers and Emilio escapes without even a nose bleed.
Strobe lights and bongos and maracas and trumpets and percussion get things going with a strong beat as the onstage band blasts the show off – and then disappears to be heard but not seen for quite a while – allowing us to meet the other characters in flashback: Gloria’s disapproving mom (an excellent Andrea Burns) who is just a bit jealous as she once had a chance for stardom in Hollywood but family matters mattered more.
Her delightful grandmother “abuela” Consuelo (an outstanding Alma Cuervo) who supports Gloria all the way to the top. Her sister Rebecca (Genny Lis Padilla) and their son Nayib (Eduardo Hernandez) who manages to steal the spotlight from the show’s two stars with his fancy footwork.
Dancing With the Stars inspired choreography by Sergio Trujillo – swirling skirts and swiveling hips and sexy thrusts becomes a bit repetitive. It is what it has to be. Nothing more.
The songs are delivered in Spanish and English and combinations of both languages. When Emilio and Gloria insist on making their next single in English the guy in charge – Phil – an almost stereotypical caricature by Lee Zarrett refuses – as their money making market is Latino and he doesn’t believe they can make the crossover (and yet in musical comedy land they have been singing mostly in English all along) In any event they do.
They and the family and the band go about making the song a hit with passion and ingenuity. Promoting the song at a Bar Mitzvah, an Italian wedding and a Las Vegas Shriners Convention which leads to the fabulous first act finale – CONGA where the cast Conga’s up the aisle inviting the audience to join in.
I imagine that audiences will be doing the Conga for a long time to come at the Marquis Theatre. As I said – it’s all about the songs. And las canciones son fantasticas!
Photos: Matthew Murphy
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