BWW Review: ON YOUR FEET! Thrills Now Through October 14th at Broadway San Jose
Broadway San Jose is serving up some hot Latin Salsa with the hit Broadway show "On Your Feet," a jukebox musical that follows the life -- and rise to stardom -- of Gloria and Emilio Estefan and their band, Miami Sound Machine.
For those not quite a familiar with the mid-1970s-80s singing sensation, the musical's book (by Alexander Dinelaris) skips a few beats, assuming a familiarity with their story that leaves the audience to fill in some gaps. But the percussive beats, tuneful melodies and dynamic appeal of the songs, not to mention the two romantic leads, more than make up for that.
We meet a young Gloria (Ana-Sofia Rodriguez) after her father (played beautifully by Eddie Noel) and mother (Broadway legend Nancy Ticotin) have moved the family to Miami to escape the Cuban revolution. Small bits of their backstory, including her father's part in the Revolution and subsequent turn as a General in the Vietnam War, get meted out over the course of the show, adding a rich immigrant flavor to the proceedings.
Teenage Gloria takes care of her now bed-ridden father (we're told he has MS), while her mother works and her abuela (Alma Cuervo) dreams big dreams for her granddaughter. It takes abuela and the dashing Emilio (the perfectly cast Ektor Rivera) to get Gloria (the dynamic Christie Prades) to overcome her shyness and embrace her vocal gifts.
The rise to stardom happens fast, too fast for Gloria's mother to accept. Through a flashback, we see why. Nicotin's Gloria (the mother) gives a dazzling performance in a Havana nightclub, her voice powerful, seductive and sure. It's clear that her dream was never fulfilled. Her jealousy is palpable, ensuring a rocky relationship with her talented daughter.
The story continues, but Gloria and Emilio's marriage, the birth of their son and subsequent death of her abuela get short shrift in throw-away lines that get lost in the pace of the show. That said, the chemistry between Prades and Rivera pulses throughout the show - at times as hot as the music they make together and at other times, soft and gentle like the ballads that made them world famous. Their joint efforts to cross over into the American English-speaking music market provide much of the grist for the show. No one believes they can do it. One of the best lines of the show comes when a short-sighted record exec (Lee Zarrett) tells them they'll never cross over, causing a fiery response from Emilio. "You should look very closely at my face because whether you know it or not ... this is what an American looks like." In perhaps a sign of the times, the audience clapped profusely.
The vibrancy of Miami (as well as their world tour) comes to life with projections by Darrel Maloney, aided in no small measure by Kenneth Posner's pastel and pink saturated lighting. During the show's final number, Posner's lighting catches the rhythm so beautifully that it becomes a choreographed masterpiece all on its own.
Scenic design by David Rockwell is intentionally minimalist making room for the biggest treat, the onstage band featuring Miami Sound Machine's Clay Ostwald, Jorge Casas, Teddy Mulet, Mike Scaglione and Edwin Bonilla. Sound Designer Steve Kennedy fully compliments the band with rounded and full horns and a percussive crispness that electrifies.
The hugely talented ensemble cast made Sergio Trujillo's choreography come to life. And seriously, every solo voice featured toward the end of the show was stellar.
With a trunkful of major hits ("Anything for You," "Conga," "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," and of course, "Get On Your Feet") the show was bound to be a hit. Go see it while you can and get swept up in the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan.
ON YOUR FEET!
Book by Alexander Dinelaris
Featuring Music by Emilio & Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine
Broadway San Jose (www.broadwaysanjose.com)
San Jose Center for the Performing
Now thru Oct. 14