Review: ON YOUR FEET! at Theatre Under the Stars

The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan is authentic and electric!

By: Jan. 31, 2024
Review: ON YOUR FEET! at Theatre Under the Stars

The end result of going to see ON YOUR FEET last night is that now I can not stop singing songs by Gloria Estefan in my head all day. I am doing the Conga at the office, turning the beat around, and counting until you are mine! The rhythm indeed... got me. It’s one of those “jukebox musicals” that reminds you how great Gloria and Emilio Estefan were at making incredibly catchy music. Theatre Under the Stars has brought in the tour of ON YOUR FEET! THE STORY OF EMILIO AND Gloria Estefan to the Hobby Center and it is a lot of good things! Maybe too much at times, but it’s an infectious and surprisingly moving work that Houston audiences should eat up as eagerly as we do our Tex-Mex. I love all the Latin flavors it offers, and the cast is a joy to watch. 

ON YOUR FEET opened on Broadway back in 2015, and it was well-received and had an official tour previously. The roadshow never came through Houston, so this is the first time local audiences can catch this one in their hometown. Much is made in the musical about Gloria and Emilio’s Cuban roots, even though both were in Miami when they met. They struggled to make it on the pop music scene because record executives thought they were “too Latin” and their music would never have broad appeal. So the first act deals with this struggle and details how the Estefans engineered their career through clubs and getting deejays to spin their music on dancefloors.   Act Two deals with the horrific 1990 tour bus crash that almost took Gloria’s life and ability to walk. The show ends in 1991 when Estefan sang “Coming Out of the Dark” at the American Music Awards. 

The show is straightforward, and the story is told linearly without fuss or embellishment. Gloria and Emilio had a good relationship throughout their career, and they always seemed to have been surrounded by love, save for a strained relationship with Gloria’s mother. Each story beat is familiar, but there is a Latin flare that makes the show feel more unique than it would normally be. The script drags a little, and the run time sometimes feels too long. But the cast really saves everything with an infectious enthusiasm that rallies when things get slow. 

Mexican actress Gaby Albo is a firecracker and a ball of joy as the lead, Gloria. When she asks if we want to party, saying no is impossible. She captures the spirit of Estefan, who made people smile and dance with ease. She has a tough role because she plays a well-known woman we all have collective memories of. But when she launches into hits like “Anything for You,” “Conga,” or “Get On Your Feet,” the entire room comes alive with all the energy the original icon could bring. Venezuelan actor Samuel Garnica looks exactly like Emilio Estefan and has great chemistry with Gaby. Miami native Kristen Tarrago plays Gloria’s mother, and she turns in a wonderfully realized performance carrying some of the best songs in the show. Tarrago and Garnica duet in the only original song for the musical “If I Never Got to Tell You,” and it becomes one of the spiritual climaxes of the night. Venezuelan actress Adela Romero steals any scene she is in as Gloria’s grandmother. 

This is a beautifully cast show full of authentic Latin performers. They have all had input into the choreography for this production, which Luis Salgado headed up. The director has amped up the dancing from the original Broadway version and made the final journey after Gloria’s accident far more spiritual and compelling. I got chills watching as each ensemble member became a fan writing a letter to Gloria Estefan for her to get better because it felt so honest to see these Latin performers paying tribute to who we routinely credit as the “Queen of Latin Pop.” The show itself is a love letter to Gloria, Emilio, and their fans. So Luis gets it, and this show is one of the best incarnations of ON YOUR FEET theater fans will ever get to see. The ensemble is perfection, and there was not one missed note or beat in the entire show. 

You get a lot for your money when you buy a ticket to ON YOUR FEET! THE STORY OF EMILIO AND Gloria Estefan. It is stuffed full of all the hits you want to hear, the cast is authentic, the choreography is on point, and it’s an electric performance all around. The run time is a bit long, but I am not going to complain when I get to indulge in so much fun in an evening. Gaby Albo and Samuel Garnica are dynamite as the leads, and they are surrounded by the best of the best. If there were a Latin Pride rally, it would be here in the Hobby Center for Performing Arts during this run.  Watch out, because the rhythm will get you too! 

ON YOUR FEET is presented by Theater Under the Stars, and will be at the Hobby Center for Performing Arts through February 11th. Tickets are available through the link below.

Photo provided by DJ COREY. The picture is of the cast of the touring version of ON YOUR FEET!