The rhythm IS going to get you, whether you like it or not. So strap yourself in if you don’t want to be seen in a conga line up the aisles of the Opera House! ON YOUR FEET:THE EMILIO & GLORIA ESTEFAN BROADWAY MUSICAL has just hit Boston with a dynamite cast, and musical numbers that just won’t quit.
I certainly remember those Cuban rhythms propelling me through the 80’s when Emilio and Gloria Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine burned up the airwaves. But this musical is particularly timely, resonating with the tale of little “Glorita” and her family who fled Cuba and arrived in the United States full of hope, energy, and optimism. The show deftly interweaves a personal multigenerational story I was not familiar with, about dreams dashed and won, amidst a catchy catalogue of dance tunes and romantic ballads that became global mega hits. It’s hard to believe these tunes weren’t always with us, so embedded in our culture is this sound.
As Gloria, Christie Prades is beautiful and instantly charismatic, with a throaty voice that moves easily between up tempo and more relaxed acoustic ballads. She also projects a reserve that makes us believe Gloria was fundamentally shy and had to be coaxed into the spotlight. As Emilio, Mauricio Martinez is strong and sexy with a soaring tenor; together they generate significant heat, and we immediately feel their bond as husband and wife.
The book (Oscar winner Alexander Dinelaris who gave us the intricate Birdman) moves effortlessly back and forth in time as Gloria and Emilio’s back story informs pivotal moments in the here and now and sheds light on what shaped their success. As Gloria’s demanding and equally talented mother who had to give up her own performing career when she fled Cuba, Nancy Ticotin is a powerhouse and takes center stage in a few blistering numbers. As Consuelo–Gloria’s Abuela–Debra Cardona is funny, feisty, and warm, and we suddenly understand all the layers of feminine strength and influence that resolved itself in Gloria’s talent, determination, discipline and ultimately grit.
Directed by Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots) and choreographed by the brilliant Serjio Trujillo (Jersey Boys/Arrabal), the dance numbers are non-stop as this sizzling ensemble kicks up its heels and flings itself into the aisles, daring us NOT to dance! But the show’s special strength is not just its musical catalogue, a brilliant fusion of Latin beats with American funk, soul, r& b and a horn section– a hybrid that recording industry suits said wouldn’t sell to the American mainstream. No, the show makes clear that the Miami Sound Machine succeeds because the mainstream IS the melting pot; that is the show’s thematic core. When Emilio, in one pointed exchange with a record producer suddenly gets up in his face and says, “This is what an American looks like,” our audience erupted in applause.
The moment and the musical are as perfect for each other as Emilio and Gloria Estefan. So get “ON YOUR FEET” and head over to the Opera House to see Broadway In Boston’s latest through SUNDAY April 29! Irresistible.