Friday, December 08, 2017
“On Your Feet!” leaves audience on their feet and dancing at Connor Palace
Last year, within a short time after getting off the plane in Havana, it became apparent that the Cuban people adore art, music, bright colors, personal style and family unity. And, after long periods of dictatorships, revolution, communism, deprivation of food and other necessities of life, they have also developed survivor and “can do” attitudes.
The Cubans who escaped from the island after the Castro regime gained control left their wealth, jobs and families behind, but carried with them their appreciations and outlooks.
These cultural displays can be examined by looking at the Cuban-American enclaves in Florida, where “Española Cubano” is thriving. Going to the Versailles Restaurant in Miami’s “Little Cuba” is like eating in Havana (with an understanding that the American restaurant has food and seasoning supplies that are not available on “the island.”)
“The Cuban-way” is on display in the story, dance and music-centric “On Your Feet,” the tale of island born Emile Estefan, and wife, Gloria, who went on to create a new music sound and win 26-Grammy awards as ex-pats.
One of the trends in Broadway shows is the jukebox musical, scripts which are created by shoe-horning pre-written songs into a story.
As is the case with most jukebox bio-musicals (e.g., “Buddy—The Buddy Holly Story,” “Jersey Boys,” “All Shook Up,)” some liberties have been taken by adding drama and romantic sequences that may or may not be accurate. This appears true in “On Your Feet.”
With a book written by Alexander Dinelaris and music either written by or made famous by Gloria Estefan, “On Your Feet” sizzles with dynamic testosterone-driven Cuban-fusion pop melodies and beats as it tells the story of the couple’s meeting, Gloria Fajardo’s family opposition to her relationship with the older band leader Emilio, the changes she made in dropping out of college and touring with the band, the duo’s marriage, her career conflicts and an accident which almost ended her life.
On the journey, we are introduced to Gloria’s mother (Nancy Ticotin) “a could-have-been” Hollywood star who envies her daughter for doing what she didn’t have the nerve to do, Consuelo (Alma Cuervo), Gloria’s supportive “abuela” (grandmother), her adored father (Jason Martinez), and the others who had an influence on her life and career.
The core of the show is the music…the ballads, dynamic Cuban and Cuban-fusion sounds, and the resulting singing and dancing.
The sounds are infectious. Listening to “1-2-3,” “Cuba Libra” “Everlasting Love,” “Party Time” “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” “Turn Up the Beat,” and “Oye,” and not leaping out of your seat and dancing in the aisles, is a major effort.
“On Your Feet!” opened on Broadway in late 2015 and closed last August after 746 performances.
The touring production, under the direction of 2-time Tony Winner, Jerry Mitchell of “Kinky Boots” fame, and choreographer Sergio Trujillo literally and figuratively explodes off the stage.
The stars, Christie Prades (Gloria) and Mauricio Martinez (Emilo) are so good that there is no time when the audience could perceive that they were not the actual couple, but a pair of actors portraying them. The singing, the connective interactions are those of reality, not fantasy.
The supporting cast is also totally involved. This is a highly skilled, mostly Hispanic/Latino assemblage.
The singing, the dancing, the energy, all make this a special evening of theatre.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The Cuban-American success story is everything that Trump and his alt-right cronies say doesn’t and shouldn’t happen. Long live immigrants and their success stories! “On Your Feet” is a joyous must see journey, with an infectious musical beat! I dare you not to be standing, clapping and singing during the curtain call.
Tickets for “On Your Feet”, which runs through December 23, 2017 at the Connor Palace Theatre, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or going to www.playhousesquare.org.