A Night at the Theatre: On Your Feet

(Poster cover property of James L. Nederlander & Estefan Enterprises, Inc.)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

There are two women named Gloria that I have deep admiration for my mother, the outstanding Gloria Matzdorff Elyachar, and the impeccable Gloria Estefan.  In fact, it was my mom who introduced me to Mrs. Estefan’s iconic music when I was in Mrs. Sandy Porter’s third-grade class at Indian Valley Elementary School.  While we were driving around Overland Park, Kansas, my mother, my father, Matthew, my brother, Aaron (at times), and I sang along to “Conga,” “1-2-3,” “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” and “Get on Your Feet.”

Like any Gloria Estefan fan, I was ecstatic to learn that she and her husband, Emilio Estefan, would be bringing their story to the Great White Way.  The jukebox musical, On Your Feet, focuses on how the Estefans met in Miami and cumulates to Gloria Estefan’s epic 1991 American Music Awards performance that marked her return to the stage after a horrific bus accident that nearly ended her career.

Bringing the Estefans’ remarkable story to life was no easy task, but Oscar and Golden Globe-winning screenwriter Alexander Dinelaris, who wrote this spectacular and brilliant production made it look easy. He was able to brilliantly incorporate songs from the Estefan songbook such as “Mi Tierra,” “Reach,” and “Wrapped,” that was introduced in Gloria’s later years into On Your Feet’s story. Also, Mr. Dinelaris added elements of the Estefans’ lives that fans might not think about. I was very interested that there was tension between Gloria, Emilio, and Gloria’s mother, Gloria Fajardo, during the Miami Sound Machine’s heyday and how big of a role that Gloria’s grandmother, Consuelo, played in inspiring her to reach for her dreams.

The brilliant Ana Villafane and Mauricio Martinez, who portray the Estefans, leads the On Your Feet casting ensemble. All throughout the production, I thought that Ana sounded like the “Conga” singer-songwriter and she did a brilliant job portraying Gloria Estefan. Also, Mauricio commanded the stage as Emilio Estefan and fans would be happy to know that they would be able to see him reprise his excellent performance during the On Your Feet national tour.

Three additional members of the acting ensemble that Jake’s Take wants to applaud are Doreen Montalvo, Alma Cuervo, and Eduardo Hernandez. Doreen Montalvo was superb with her fiery interpretation of Gloria Fajardo, while Alma Cuervo stole several scenes as Gloria’s proud grandmother, Consuelo. Finally, youngster Eduardo Hernandez is an outstanding fresh face that shined so bright that eclipsed several of his co-stars during several numbers including “Conga.”

Speaking of “Conga,” On Your Feet has incredible musical numbers that were choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. Mr. Trujillo brilliantly fused his impressive choreography with the Estefan’s songbook. Several numbers that stood out to me throughout this production was the frenetic “Dr. Beat” and the aforementioned “Conga,” which showcased the Miami Sound Machine efforts to be played on pop radio.  There were also pieces that moved me to tears including “Wrapped,” which transported the audience into a heavenly paradise where Gloria reunited with her past and recently departed family members, and “Reach,” where she experienced the power of her fans’ massive love and prayers.

Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s spectacular songbook was brought to life by Lon Hoyt and his incredible orchestra.  This ten-member ensemble was featured heavily on stage, and I thought that director Jerry Mitchell made a brilliant move putting them on stage with the cast. Also, I am so glad that there were members of the Miami Sound Machine were part of this extraordinary group of musicians. Also, there is a compelling original piece of music called “If I Never Got to Tell You,” that Gloria and her daughter, Emily Estefan, wrote exclusively for On Your Feet. “If I Never Got to Tell You” brilliantly showcases Mauricio Martinez and Doreen Montalvo’s vocals and powerfully displays how Emilio and Gloria Fajardo ended their bitter decades long feud.

Final thoughts & grade: On Your Feet is an outstanding show from start to finish that will make its audience laugh, cry, think, cheer, and most importantly…sing! From its fantastic show stoppers to potential powerhouses in the acting ensemble, this show will have you dancing in its seats. Jake’s Take would like to give its kudos to Ms. Villafane, Mr. Martinez, the On Your Feet casting ensemble, the fantastic crew, and the Estefans for an excellent experience on the Great White Way. A+

While “On Your Feet” closes on August 20, fans can catch the show when it travels across the country for its first national tour this fall.

 

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Copyright 2015 Jacob Elyachar