On Your Feet! Is An Uplifting And Heartfelt Musical For All

Credit: Johan Persson

For anyone who remembers the music of the 1980s, there were a few artists who dominated the charts, and for a child of the 1980s, for me it was Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.

With hits such as “Anything for You”, “Dr Beat”, “Get On Your Feet” and “1-2-3”, Estefan was one of the sounds of the 80s. Now thanks to Tony and Olivier award winning director Jerry Mitchell, Estefan’s amazing life story has been brought to the stage with the musical On Your Feet! Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo and a book by Alexander Dinelaris, On Your Feet! brings Gloria Estefan’s incredibly interesting and sometimes heartbreaking life story to a whole new audience. Estefan and her husband Emilio have been heavily involved in the development and production of the musical – including one of the best “please turn your mobile phone” announcements I have heard in a while.

The musical has already played to Broadway audiences, and is currently on a US tour, and now UK audiences have the opportunity to watch the show. On Your Feet! had a limited engagement at the London Coliseum this summer, and is now on a UK tour. I caught the show in Nottingham, and full tour locations can be found on the show’s website.

The UK tour sees Philippa Stefani (In The Heights) playing Gloria Estefan, and George Ioannides usually playing Emilio Estefan, although in the show we saw Emilio Estefan was played by Sharif Afifi. The sublimely talented Madalena Alberto (Evita, Aspects of Love, Piaf) plays Gloria Fajardo (Estefan’s mother) who fights tooth and nail for her family, and Karen Mann plays Consuelo. Martin McCarthy played the role of Gloria’s father José Fajardo and he was wonderfully emotional, and the song with Gloria, her father and Consuelo “Wrapped” was brilliant.

The action of the show takes us from Gloria’s childhood in Miami, where she is helping to care for her sister Rebecca (played by Francesca Lara Gordon) and her father who is suffering from multiple sclerosis, through her fight to become the international star we all know, and we see her life warts and all. There are times through the show where you can feel Gloria’s frustration at her mother, Emilio, and the record executives who tell her that she and the Miami Sound Machine can’t become mainstream stars. You also get to see the love story between Gloria and Emilio so it really has it all. The musical also shows us the life changing event that nearly destroyed Gloria and her triumphant comeback. At no point is the drama gratuitous or unnecessary and the emotional scenes between Stefani and Alberto were some of the most wonderful acting I have seen in either a play or musical in a while.

Estefan’s extensive back catalogue is weaved effortlessly into the action with Stefani bringing down the house with songs such as “Here We Are” and “Live For Loving You” and was also able to show her phenomenal range with the upbeat numbers such as “Dr. Beat” and “Get on your Feet”. I loved Stefani in the London production of In The Heights and I fell in love with her all over again as Estefan, and there is no doubt that she embodies Estefan so well.

Afifi as Emilio Estefan was funny and emotional, and refreshingly we see the relationship behind the curtain of the public facade and he had brilliant chemistry with Stefani and Alberto. Afifi’s heartbreaking rendition of “Don’t Want to Lose You” was stunning and his duet with Alberto, “If I Never Got to Tell You”, brought a tear to my eye due in no small part to the sheer talent and strength of Alberto.

Alberto is truly stunning throughout and during the song “Mi Tierra”. I was transfixed by her performance and the fact that so many people will be able to see Alberto is a fantastic thing.

Trujillio’s choreography is stunning and the ensemble are strong throughout, and the show works well as a touring show. The end of Act One is exceptionally good fun especially if you are sitting in the stalls of the theatre – and we recommend you join in if you get the chance.

Anyone who remembers Estefan from 1980s would love this show, however there was a wide range of ages in the audience when we were there, and you don’t need to be an Estefan fan to enjoy the show. If you aren’t an Estefan fan on the way in, you will be when you leave.

On Your Feet! is on tour until 2 May 2020, with the next venue being Sunderland Empire on 30 September. For a full list of venues and ticket information, visit the show’s website.

Kirsty Wallace
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