On paper, a musical about the lives of Cuban-American music duo, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, sounds like quite a tough sell. Especially in the UK where their work is less familiar than in the US where this show has enjoyed a successful two year run on Broadway.
But On Your Feet! goes much deeper than the lives of the Estefans – it is a story of perseverance in the face of adversity and doubt. Most importantly, it is about taking risks for the things – and people – that you love.
Philippa Stefani’s portrayal of Gloria Estefan feels so authentic that it is difficult not to be drawn into her world. She exudes so much positivity and ambition in Act One that it’s impossible to stop smiling from the opening number. In Act Two, the lives of the Estefans get much more sombre and Stefani’s graceful portrayal of Gloria’s more difficult times is heart-wrenching.
Emilio Estefan is portrayed by George Ioannides, and while his list of theatre credits is much shorter than Stefani’s accomplished list, his performance is no less impressive. As the musical focuses a lot more on Gloria’s life and family, it would be easy for Emilio to drift into the background, but Ionnides doesn’t allow this to happen thanks to his strong stage presence.
Other notable performances include Madalena Alberto as Gloria’s strong-willed mother, and Karen Mann as Gloria’s supportive and humorous grandmother. Both women were a perfect support to the cast, especially Mann who provided comical relief throughout.
In addition to a cast, a musical requires a band, and On Your Feet! does not disappoint on that front. They play their way perfectly through the 21 songs, which are a mix of the Estefans’ greatest hits such as ‘Dr. Beat’ and ‘Conga’, and less well-known but no less enjoyable Latin songs such as ‘Cuando Salí De Cuba’.
The lighting and costume design are highly impressive. The costumes are very bright and colourful, making it even more of a joy to watch, while the lights do incredibly well to reflect the mood of each scene and take the audience even deeper into the Estefans’ world.
On Your Feet! is a delightful musical full of songs which will be stuck in your head for the rest of the week. It is impossible to leave the theatre without a huge smile on your face.
A small piece of advice – if you’d rather not be dragged out of your seat and forced into dancing with the ensemble during the Act One finale, I’d advise against sitting on the end of an aisle in the stalls. Ensemble member Dawnita Smith taught me that the hard way…
Featured Image: Sheffield Theatres