On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical is no run-of-the-mill jukebox musical. Aside from serving as a window into the music industry of the 1980s, its story of the rise of singer-songwriter Gloria Estefan is unique and inspirational. At the Orpheum Theatre, the show crackles with Sergio Trujillo’s snappy Tony-nominated choreography and captivating music made famous by the couple and the legendary Miami Sound Machine. Here’s a musical that reflects the challenges, heartaches, and triumphs of a remarkable woman’s career.
Another anchor mooring On Your Feet! is that the show’s devoted couple, Emilio and Gloria, came from Cuban families that escaped that country’s Communist uprising led by Fidel Castro. It gives the pair and their community a sense of bonding and identity that actually permeates the spirit of the show.
Christie Prades’s lead performance deftly renders Gloria from youthful timidity to overcoming that when the demands and racial prejudice of the recording business monopoly challenge that. After Gloria is seriously injured in a tour bus road mishap after playing at the George H.W. Bush White House, Prades plays her recovery period and re-emergence with vivid vulnerability. Her vocals organically emulate Estefan’s distinctly individual style.
On Your Feet also has a stunningly powerful duet between Emilio and his mother-in-law Gloria Fajardo, If I Never Got to Tell You, where the jagged divisions between the two are movingly reckoned with as they await whether or not the woman they both love will survive. Eddie Noel and Nancy Ticotin’s delivery is marvelous. It’s hard to recall a duet between such in-laws in a musical. And this one hits the heights.
Noel’s portrayal is a resplendent mix of firm masculinity, purpose, and nurturance. Ticotin elicits visceral grit as a mother ravaged by toxic resentment toward her daughter’s growth as a person and as an artist. A classic case of holding onto the wounds of the past.
Overall however, On Your Feet! is infectiously upbeat, flowing with such rousing hit tunes as Conga, Rhythm is Gonna Get You, and of course, Get On Your Feet. Kenneth Posner’s lighting, accentuated with deep lavenders and dark emerald greens, enhances to lovely effect. This vibrant production has been directed with solid assurance by Jerry Mitchell.
On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical
Through Jan. 27
Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis