Review: ON YOUR FEET! at NCTHEATRE at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium

The story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan

By: Aug. 13, 2022
Review: ON YOUR FEET! at NCTHEATRE at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium

Current production at North Carolina Theater features the music of 26-time Grammy Award-winning husband-and-wife team Gloria and Emilio Estefan. 'On Your Feet!' tells the story of two talented people who created an international sensation with their music. Featuring Estefan's hit songs, "Anything for you", "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," "Conga," "Get on Your Feet," "Don't Want to Lose You," "1-2-3," and "Coming Out of the Dark," the show spans both their early years in Miami up to her devastating bus accident in 1990 that left her with a broken back. The award-winning musical had its debut in 2015 and has seen audiences on their feet ever since.Review: ON YOUR FEET! at NCTHEATRE at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium The North Carolina cast features Iliana Garcia as Gloria and Dhanny Burgos as Emilio, but it begins in a flashback where young Gloria (Alondra Azcona) is recording music to send to her father Jose who is stationed in Vietnam. As time progresses, Gloria is introduced (by her grandmother!) to Emilio who is part of a group called the Miami Latin Boys. Although she is a winning presence on stage when she is invited by Emilio to perform, she becomes torn between music and caring for her father as he battles Multiple Sclerosis, in addition to her studies in Psychology. Pushed by her grandmother, Gloria attends rehearsals while her mother dismisses the notion. Gloria learns that her mother had once had dreams of being a musician but gave them up while escaping Cuba.Review: ON YOUR FEET! at NCTHEATRE at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium As they struggle to get their music heard and a career started, Gloria and Emilio go on a date (on July 4th so yes, there were fireworks involved) where Gloria kisses Emilio for the first time. They finally convince music producer Phil (David McClutchey) to come hear their new song at a Shriner's convention in Las Vegas and they head for stardom. Their music hits the top of the charts, and they launch a worldwide tour (Get on Your Feet).

As greater success comes their way, Gloria finds her mother's disapproval increasing to the point of estrangement (jealousy?). Gloria struggles with an exhausting schedule, but pushes to take on a concert in Syracuse. While on the road in a snowstorm their bus collides with a semi-truck and Gloria's back is broken requiring extensive and life-threatening surgery.

The musical also features the original song "If I Never Got to Tell You" with lyrics by Gloria Estefan and music by her daughter Emily Estefan who was born after the accident. The song comes into the story as Gloria's mother rushes to the hospital after hearing about Gloria's accident on the news and she and Emilio bond over their love for Gloria. It proves an inspiringly emotional moment to a high intensity show.

So, let's talk about this production. There is a broad mix of talent much of which is local. This is a big show for all involved and everyone from the band, dancers, background singers, and lead ensemble shines. Iliana Garcia (as Gloria) establishes early on that big things come in small packages. Garcia's voice and acting capture the spirit of Gloria during her prime, and she is one star to watch rise. Dhanny Burgos provides a nuanced and understated Emilio, which give more punch to his bigger moments. Vocally Burgos blends well with Garcia, but it is his song with Gloria's mother (played by Shadia Fairuz) that captures the audience. Fairuz plays both sides of the mother so well it's hard to decide if you like her or not. But when she sings (and she does it so well) it becomes clear what she has given up to try and be the matriarch she thinks everyone expects. She is possibly matched by Sydia Cenedo as her mother (Gloria's grandmother) Consuelo who provides the catalyst to propel Gloria into a music career, and she gives some levity to the lighter moments of the show (and this triple threat can dance too!). At times, it seems to be a contest of the leads to see who can steal each scene - making it even more fun.

The large ensemble seems more like a community than background. The salsa inspired dancing is spot on, the singing filled with lush harmonies, and a boundless energy that truly represent the music of Estefan. There is talent in the ensemble that is definitely lead material and their visual appeal is lost on no one.

The orchestra (under the direction of Edward G. Robinson) is AMAZING. A special shout out to Casey D'Sola, McKayla Phillips and Alex Skov in the percussion section who not only "Turn the Beat Around," but turned it out. The guitar and base with Marc Davis and Keith Lewis do some great solo work, and it was a team effort with Jesse Kapsha (piano), Karl Moraski (piano), Tim Smith (reed), David McChesney (Trumpet), and Andy Kleindienst (trombone) rounding out this talented group.

Before seeing the show, I imagined it to be basically a music review of Gloria Estefan's music. However, the book is strong and calls for some tough acting talent. This well-rounded production is full of music, heritage, and heart; and delivers on all counts. It ranks in the NOT TO BE MISSED category. The show runs from August 9-14th, 2022 at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in downtown Raleigh. Tickets available at or the box office phone 919-831-6941.

Review: ON YOUR FEET! at NCTHEATRE at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium

So, get your tickets before they're gone and...Get on Your Feet!

Photos provided by NCTHEATRE

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