Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think Of ON YOUR FEET! In London?
Gloria and Emilio Estefan's smash-hit musical comes to London direct from Broadway for a strictly limited season. On Your Feet! is the inspiring true love story of Emilio and Gloria and charts their journey from its origins in Cuba, onto the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom.
Starring Christie Prades (In the Heights, West Side Story), reprising her role as Gloria Estefan, George Ioannides (Annie, Mamma Mia!, An Officer and a Gentleman) as Emilio Estefan, Philippa Stefani (Rent, In the Heights, Wicked) as the Alternate Gloria Estefan, Madalena Alberto (Evita, Cats, Les Misérables) as Gloria Fajardo and Karen Mann (Sister Act, Fiddler on the Roof, Sweeney Todd) as Consuelo.
This exhilarating musical features some of the most iconic pops songs of the era, including 'Rhythm Is Gonna Get You', 'Conga', 'Get On Your Feet', 'Don't Want To Lose You Now' and '1-2-3'. Directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman).
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Bryony Taylor, BroadwayWorld: There are more than enough milestones in Estefan's life to fuel a book-driven musical, but there's something missing that halts On Your Feet! from being a showstopper. In a speech at the end of the Gala show, real-life Emilio said that it's "a show about dreams". It is, but in its attempt to inspire feels a bit hokey and superficial. The love story between Gloria and Emilio, her manager, for example, feels a bit under-cooked.
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: Had the show - directed by Jerry Mitchell - been mounted in a dance-friendly, hang out and slurp mojitos kind of venue, it might succeed in spicing up the audience's summer with the infectious rhythms of Estefan's pop-Latin fusions. But incongruously residing at the home of the English National Opera, with the cast bopping and twisting up on stage at a safe remove, it's toe-curling even before we get to the first-half climax and an attempted mass conga in the stalls.
Alun Hood, WhatsOnStage: From the pre-show announcement featuring the actual Gloria and Emilio bickering over whether or not he has turned off his cellphone, to the act one finale where members of the ridiculously attractive ensemble prowl the stalls looking for salsa partners, this show is all about a good time. It succeeds. Deafeningly.
Tim Bano, The Stage: Kinky Boots director Jerry Mitchell and book writer Alexander Dinelaris do a very decent job with this bio-musical, charting the Estefans' lives - from fleeing Castro's Cuba to settling in Miami to achieving international stardom.
Nick Levine, Time Out London: The second act become more ballad-heavy - perhaps unavoidably given the narrative. After a horrific tour bus collision, Gloria has titanium rods put in her back and needs months of gruelling physio to get on her feet again. But still, there are moments when you might wonder when the rhythm is gonna get you again. It finally does in a hit-packed closing medley which includes 'Conga', 'Get on Your Feet' and her '90s cover of 'Turn the Beat Around'. It's a shame 'On Your Feet' isn't always this exhilarating, but it captures enough of Gloria and Emilio's warmth and resilience to make you forgive the flaws.
John Lewis, The Guardian: Fortunately, the show is carried by a superb performance from the Miami-born Cuban-American Christie Prades as Gloria. The rest of the cast are mostly Europeans, supplying a variable array of accents, but any issues are disguised by Sergio Trujillo's pacy choreography, Emilio Sosa's snazzy costume designs, and the tight salsa-meets-R&B arrangements of the 10-piece band, directed by Estefan's long-running bandleader Clay Ostwald. The big UK hits - Dr Beat, 1-2-3, Don't Wanna Lose You, Can't Stay Away from You, Anything for You - are smartly deployed, but even some of the less familiar songs soon have the audience actually on their feet by the final act. For all the show's flaws, the rhythm really does get you.
Sarah Carson, The i Paper: The nine-piece live band are marvellous and transportative - more so perhaps than the leads, who while warm and easy to root for, don't quite have the gravitas to make your spine tingle. Magdalena Alberto as Gloria's mother (also Gloria) is vocally superb - especially for "Mi Tierra", sung on her final night in Havana. She also moves in a duet with Ioannides as Gloria lies in hospital, "If I Never Got to Tell You" - an original song written by Estefan with her daughter Emily.
Dominic Maxwell, The Times: Yet while fans will go with the speech-bubble dialogue and soft-focus portrayal of their heroes, Estefan ballads such as Anything For You, Don't Wanna Lose You and Here We Are sound as soupy and samey as they did on the radio. Sergio Trujillo's choreography has fine flourishes; David Rockwell's set is colourful and nimble; the ten-strong band replicates the dense Eighties sound of the originals. Rhythm is Gonna Get You? Not everyone, it's not. The megamix finale got the crowd on its feet, but I remained in my seat.
Marianka Swain, theartsdesk: David Rockwell's sliding flats look rather cheap, with unimaginative projections providing information like tour locations. Trujillo's hip-swivelling choreography fares better; if untidy in the sync work, the salsa partnering is still great fun, and there's clever reflection of each number's context - from the use of billowing sheets as the young Gloria prepares to do laundry, through to "Conga" building in popularity via the band playing bar mitzvahs, weddings and Vegas, demonstrating the song's universal reach as participants from each join forces.
Mark Shenton, LondonTheatre: Alexander Dinelaris's book makes rather a meal of a mostly rather undramatic palette, as we follow the schoolgirl Gloria to her first meeting with Emilio, a fall-out with her mother, a move from Cuba to Miami and their battles with their American record label to break out of the Latin music market and cross over to the English language one.
Benjy Potter, The Sun: The only gem in a treasure chest of fool's gold was Karen Mann as Gloria's pushy grandmother Consuelo nailing some rare gags with her knowing looks and cheeky demeanour. It's fair to say the second act picked up with leading lady Christie Prades showing her true vocal prowess with belting Coming Out of the Dark, but it was too little too late for a production that simply relied on a back catalogue of Eighties hits.