London Coliseum – until 31 August 2019 ★★★★
The long summer nights are here and it’s the perfect time for a fun, high-energy musical that will have you tapping your toes and feeling good. Thankfully On Your Feet! is here to provide just that. Despite a flimsy plot, there’s fun to be had, lights to dazzle and latin sounds to ensure you leave the theatre smiling.
Taking us from her childhood in Cuba, through her recording career and her near fatal accident, On Your Feet! is a real celebration of Gloria Estefan’s career and determination, and is a real reminder to always stand up for what we believe in. The cast are as enthusiastic and sharp as you would hope, and provide some highly exciting moments, especially when dancing Sergio Trujillo’s fiery choreography. Particularly impressive is the sandal tap dance which really wows and creates a rousing wall of sound that is fantastic to see and hear.
The main downfall of the musical is certainly Alexander Dinelaris’ book which lacks much depth or emotional drama. Many of the more intense emotional scenes are quickly brushed over and it’s not until act two that we really become absorbed in the story. Of course this is real life and it’s the music of Gloria Estefan that we are celebrating, but there are several moments where the pacing feels too slow and too little happens. However, the scenes where Gloria and her mother are at odds with one another and when there is conflict between the Estefans and their record producer, are great at highlighting Gloria and Emilio’s grit and the limited book is all performed well.
The direction by Jerry Mitchell does feel basic at times and sometimes highlights the flaws in the book, but he rightly places the wonderful music of Gloria and Miami Sound Machine at the heart of the musical. The high energy songs, including the ‘Conga’ and‘ On Your Feet’ make the audience feel uplifted and energised. It’s hard not to feel swept up by the glorious Latin rhythms that make you want to grab a cocktail and swirl around.
Leading lady Christie Prades is confident and engaging in her performance. She delivers a performance which never waivers in energy or commitment; and vocals which wow and engage. Prades’ chemistry with George Ioannides as Emilio Estefan is wonderfully nuanced and believable. Ioannides also provides strong vocals, which falter at times but mostly maintain the suave Latin feel.
Karen Mann as Conseulo is delightfully entertaining as she pushes Gloria to achieve her dreams in any way she can, even if that includes bribing a club owner with Empanadas! Meanwhile, Madalena Alberto is sharp (and a vocal powerhouse) as she portrays Gloria’s mother who begrudges her daughter, but of course, loves her regardless. Ensemble standouts include Dawnita Smith and Francesca Lara Gordon who catch the eye as they perform each moment with power and perfection. Little Gloria Emily Perra is also fantastic, with a magnetic stage presence and beautiful vocals.
The onstage band bring every song to life with an enthusiasm which radiates off the stage. Emilio Soso’s floaty, colourful costumes just add to the party feel of the piece, as does Kenneth Posner’s bold, bright lighting. Both aspects are equally strong when they dim themselves to fit the more emotive, atmospheric moments.
Overall On Your Feet! is an entertaining delight of a show. The book is hugely lacking but for fans of Gloria Estefan it’s a perfect portrayal of her life and music. Transport yourself to the Miami sun and take a journey through the lives of Gloria and Emilio.
On Your Feet! is booking at the London Coliseum until August 31st
photo credit: Johan Persson