BWW Review: You'll Get ON YOUR FEET at the Peace Center
It's the quintessential American story: immigrants arrive, work hard, persist in spite of prejudicial opposition, and achieve success beyond their wildest dreams.
After all, as Cuban refugee Emilio Estefan says to a dismissive record executive, "Look at my face - whether you know it or not, this is what an American looks like."
The North American Tour of the Broadway hit On Your Feet opened last night at the Peace Center in downtown Greenville, SC. It's the inspiring musical story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, who led their Miami Sound Machine to worldwide fame in the 80's and 90's. Filled with fantastic music performed by an amazingly talented cast and on-stage band, On Your Feet delivers a timely story of emotional - and physical - triumph against overwhelming odds.
The show opens at the end of a 1990 concert in Washington DC, an evening that will end up being a pivotal one in the lives of the Estefan family. We then flash back to Gloria's childhood, in Cuba and then Miami, where her musical talent is simultaneously encouraged and discouraged by different family members. As a teenager, Gloria is introduced to local musician Emilio and she ultimately joins - and eventually fronts - his band. We then follow their unlikely rise to superstardom before returning to that fateful Washington DC concert.
The production makes subtle but effective use of projections and revolving panels to help tell the story while always keeping the focus on the performers and the music. The toe-tapping score is filled with energetic chart toppers like "Conga," "1-2-3," and "Rhythm is Gonna Get You," of course, along with several gorgeous ballads like "Anything for You" as well as some more traditional Latin numbers.
Christie Prades and Mauricio Martinez star as Gloria and Emilio. Prades is simply terrific as Gloria, with a voice that sounds, to my ears, nearly spot on to the original. She also convincingly shows us an awkward young woman who grows into her rightful place in the spotlight. She's well matched with Martinez, who almost drips charisma and easily pulls us all under his sway as the confident, swaggering, charmer who is Emilio Estefan.
Nancy Ticotin, as Gloria's mother, has a dynamite dance number of her own as well as a heartfelt duet with Martinez, "If I Never Got to Tell You," a song written specifically for this musical by the Estefans.
Other standout performers include Alma Cuervo as Gloria's irrepressible grandmother, Consuelo, Jason Martinez as Gloria's father, and Kevin Tellez as Gloria's son, Nayib. Young Tellez also shows off some impressive dance moves of his own near the end of act one in a scene that had several audience members literally dancing in the aisles.
Literally sitting behind all these terrific performers is an amazingly authentic-sounding band, led by music director Clay Ostwald. Close reading of the program reveals exactly why the band sounds so great - Ostwald and several other band members are actual veterans of Miami Sound Machine. What a treat.
Filled with heart, joy, and love, On Your Feet is a vibrant, crowd-pleasing staging of a beautifully American story.
On Your Feet - The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical
Runs Dec. 26-31, 2017 at The Peace Center, 300 S. Main St., Greenville, SC
For tickets and additional information call 864-467-3000 or visit peacecenter.org