On Your Feet, the life story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, is one of the most fabulous, exotic, sexy and passion driven ‘juke box’ musicals I’ve seen this year. The music is infectious and from the get-go you could tell that all the audience wanted to do was get out of their seats in the normally conservative London Coliseum and party.
The energy levels of the cast are explosive. Performing at such a high intensity, the vibrancy and vividness of the Cuban-Miami culture came out from the stage and it was almost tangible.
The couple’s story is full of thrills and spills, tragedy and turmoil. Gloria dealing with her father who suffered from MS, the near fatal bus crash that left her spine shattered and meant two steel rods had to be inserted into her back. She had to learn how to walk again. This is the story also of drive and determination, dealing with the knock-backs, the rejections like being told that Latin music would not cross over to middle America – and falling in love.
Starring Christie Prades as Gloria and George Ioannides as Emilio, the chemistry between the two of them is instant and supported by an excellent cast, especially Madalena Alberto as the mother whose own ambitions were thwarted meaning she has reservations about her own daughter’s career. This is where the musical scores massively well with writer Alexander Dinelaris and director Jerry Mitchell not sugar-coating Gloria’s relationship with her mother at all. In fact the second act has that relationship at its heart as the musical success of Gloria’s fame escalates. Through the clever use of video screens and news reel footage the time frame is well documented culminating in Gloria’s memorable performance at the American Music Awards.
This is a feel good, high-octane crowd-pleaser and once seen, be sure the rhythm is gonna get cha!
Photos by Johan Persson