San Diego has had some hot summer weather lately, and now ON YOUR FEET is bringing the rhythm to Broadway San Diego to make it feel like we’ve all taken a trip to Miami. Luckily, this musical, playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre through Sunday, August 5th is not only a vibrantly entertaining show with fantastic dancing, but it has one hell of a built in soundtrack with the hits from Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.
This celebrity biography musical is based on the personal and professional journey of Gloria and Emilio Estefan. They meet cute, Emilio (Ektor Rivera) comes to her door looking for a talented young woman named Gloria (Christie Prades) he has heard about and wants to invite to audition for his band, the Miami Latin Boys. After accidentally insulting her mother, also named Gloria (Nancy Ticotin), an interaction that sets iciness between them that takes most of the show to thaw, Gloria agrees to the audition.
Like most celebrity biographies, the plot builds up and targets the emotional drama; between Gloria and her Mother, Emilio and Gloria’s Mother, Gloria’s Father being ill, Gloria’s guilt at wanting to pursue her career even though it takes her away from her family, and then seemingly skips other parts to fast forward to more dramatic scenes.
The first act has the most forward motion as they start to make music and climb the charts together. Gloria is shy when auditioning, but this quickly melts away after a pep talk by Emilio. Gloria learns about her Mother’s past dreams as a performer, and why she is so resistant to this idea. The band begins to climb the charts in popularity, and Emilio gets the chance to set a snobby, white music rep straight after dismissing their music’s appeal.
“You should look very closely at my face”, Emilio says, “Because whether you know it or not…this is what an American looks like.” This line is delivered with heat and gravity, achieving its aimed for applause, and showing that the more things change the more some things, sadly, stay the same in the fight for a more accepted diverse America.
Christie Prades as Gloria is an strong and energetic singer, she has a similar tone to Ms. Estefan’s, which helps keep the songs sounding similar without it being an impersonation. Rarely off the stage, you never see her energy flag, which is impressive considering how much she does in each number. Her Gloria is feisty and funny, especially when teasing Emilio about his accent.
Ektor Rivera as Emilio has a fantastic voice, a smooth delivery, and pivots from sensitive and introspective to powerful and focused very easily. Together they make the instant chemistry between the real life couple feel authentic, and their continued relationship progress as a team that much more inspiring.
Ticotin shines as Gloria’s mother, both in present day as the more rigid woman Gloria knows, and in the past as the talented performer with dreams of her own. Debra Cardona as Abuelita Consuelo brings the right balance of love and support to Gloria, with a touch of mischief as she gets the audition and the connection between Gloria and Emilio started. Jason Martinez is Gloria’s father Jose, has a moving arc as a Cuban a police officer, to the proud father listening to tapes of his daughter while he served in Vietnam, and then to a man battling an illness.
Directed by Jerry Mitchell, this musical makes full use of the incredible dancers that starts off high energy and only builds from there. Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo the show features dances that mix salsa, mambo, and more. The irresistibly enthralling steps, spins, and lifts from the talented cast match the effervescence of the music. Jordan Vergara, who played a variety of kid roles throughout the show, is a spectacular dancer who wowed the audience with his fast footwork.
The set by David Rockwell is mostly made up of scrims, and shifting panels, all enhanced with projections by Darrel Maloney. The lighting by Kenneth Posner is gorgeous, full of saturated colors and paints some beautiful backdrops for this show to play out against. Adding to a concert feel, a stage comes in and out throughout the show with an excellent band, 5 of which are Miami Sound Machine veteran band members.
The second act mostly focuses on the major car accident Estefan was injured in and her recovery. But this show stops short of the continued successes of the power couple after that. Not only in the music industry in cross over industries, even on to Broadway; after all their life story spent almost two years on Broadway before going on tour.
ON YOUR FEET is a fun and inspirational story of finding and following your passion. This is a story of the American Dream being enriched by talented immigrants who were determined to make their dreams come true. It’s also a delightful and sparkling musical that will have you standing up by the end of the show.
ON YOUR FEET isn’t just the title, it’s a promise.
For tickets and show time information go to www.broadwaysd.com ON YOUR FEET is playing through Sunday, August 5th.