Review: ON YOUR FEET! at Capital One Hall

The music of Gloria & Emilio Estefan shines in this energetic production.

By: Apr. 23, 2023
Review: ON YOUR FEET! at Capital One Hall
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

One day, many years from now when our civilization has become nothing more than a few pages in the history books, scholars will undoubtedly focus their attention on one of the great cultural achievements of our time: the jukebox musical. With jukebox musicals like ALL SHOOK UP, THE CHER SHOW, and BEAUTIFUL: THE Carol King MUSICAL, how could these future scholars do anything but dissect and attempt to comprehend the significance of these artistic achievements? Featuring a smattering of songs from an artist's musical catalog jammed unwillingly into weak scripts held together by the barest of single threads, it's no wonder the jukebox musical has taken the American stage by storm and subsequently been exported across the globe.

Sarcasm aside, and this should be quite obvious by now, it is the opinion of this reviewer that most jukebox musicals exist somewhere between unwatchable and something just below mildly entertaining. However, ON YOUR FEET! THE STORY OF EMILIO & Gloria Estefan challenges this notion, especially the production playing at the beautiful Capital One Hall in Tysons, VA through April 23rd. Not only is the production watchable but it is also highly entertaining - and not just when being compared to other jukebox musicals!

Billed on the production's website as "the inspiring true story about heart, heritage and two people who believed in their talent - and each other," ON YOUR FEET! is a high-energy, biographic musical about Gloria and Emilio Estefan. It's a rare jukebox musical that compellingly tells the artist's story, weaves the songs into the script without feeling too forced, and has a lot of fun in the process. Chocked full of the pop-Cuban beats and colorful pageantry that defined Gloria Estefan's artistry, this production is a joy from start to finish. The biggest flaw is that the show only plays for a single weekend in Tysons with the final performance playing the evening of Sunday, April 23rd.

ON YOUR FEET! begins backstage at a concert set later in the record-setting career of Gloria Estefan (played by understudy Lauren Danielle Horgan at this performance). She's decked out in an iconic flamboyant, sequined outfit and getting ready to take the stage. We spend very little time here before being thrust back into her childhood when she was still Gloria Fajardo (Katie McCullom) growing up singing in the streets of Havana, Cuba.

It's here that we're treated to the first of many exquisite production numbers, and we see the musically gifted Gloria grow up right before our eyes. McCullom's Young Gloria is outstanding and gets far too little stage time, but the upside is more time watching Horgan tackle a beast of a role with impressive skill. We learn later that the Fajardos actually fled Cuba during the Castro regime's government takeover, which led Gloria and her family to settle in Miami. Spending her formative years in South Florida, Gloria's reputation as an amateur singer-songwriter catches the attention of one Emilio Estefan (played by Samuel Garnica) who eventually invites her to come to sing with his band, The Miami Latin Boys.

She wows the band with a beautiful rendition of Gloria's eventual hit, "Anything for You," and Gloria joins the band full-time much to the dismay of her mother (also named Gloria and played by Francisca Tapia). Equal parts envious of her daughter for achieving dreams she never could and trying to keep the family together in the new country, the elder Gloria acts as a foil to the upward trajectory of her daughter's career and life. There is the added wrinkle of the Fajardo women, including Abuela Consuelo (Adela Romero), becoming caretakers to Gloria's father, José (Max Cervantes). A Vietnam veteran now confined to a wheelchair, José's needs become one of the many arguments for the elder Fajardo's resistance to Gloria's career and the resulting time away from the family. Despite these challenges, the younger Fajardo pursues her passion and a budding romance with Emilio, which eventually leads to a marriage.

As time passes, the newly formed band's popularity only grows. Now the Miami Sound Machine, the band quickly realizes it's Gloria's voice and energy that not only sells the band but makes it marketable and unique. There weren't many groups that looked like the Sound Machine at the time, and the show does a great job of showcasing just how many barriers the group broke over the decades. Most notably, the group was able to achieve massive success as a Spanish-language band dominating the Latin markets and again as the band crossed over into English-speaking markets despite repeated protestations from record producers along the way. The latter point is showcased well with Emilio telling a New York record producer, "This is what an American looks like."

Though we all know a number of Estefan and Miami Sound Machine hits from "Rhythm is Gonna Get You" to "Dr. Beat," ON YOUR FEET! showcases just how hard the group had to work to achieve notoriety. Fighting an industry averse to change, Emilio in particular makes it a personal mission to make sure the group succeeds. From knocking on doors to blasting their songs on South Beach to performing for free in exchange for air time, the group's success is a true story of grit and determination. "Conga" finally breaks the group through into the English-speaking mainstream and it's a dizzying ascent into superstardom from there. Estefan would go on to achieve significant fame as a solo artist as well, but the show focuses on the time spent with the Sound Machine primarily.

Of course, no musical - jukebox or otherwise - is complete without a central obstacle to overcome. Though Gloria's mother provides one for much of the first act, it's Estefan's gruesome injuries and subsequent recovery from a tour bus accident that dominates much of the second. Estefan's long road to full health is inspiring and the audience roots for her to make it back in time for the show's finale, set at the American Music Awards, but much of the show's momentum is lost in a barrage of ballads. Luckily, the show finds its groove again and ends on a high note with a megamix that can only be rivaled by MAMMA MIA's raucous "Waterloo" and fittingly features the titular song in abundance. It's hard not to have a good time even though the script doesn't always come across as believable and glosses over many seminal moments in the lives of the story's stars.

ON YOUR FEET! features several notable performances from its leads and supporting characters, but it is the work of this outstanding ensemble that deserves special accolades here. The group made the intricate choreography look effortless, and the high-energy, Latin-infused dances fit each and every dancer like a glove. This ensemble's never-ending stamina, precise movements, and joy they brought to the stage forces recognition for each and every member of it. The ON YOUR FEET! ensemble features Facundo Agustín, Miguel Flores, Arquímides González, Emilee Hassanzadeh, Marielisa Lugo, Madelin Marchant, Ralphie Rivera de Jesús, Angelliz M. Rosada Ramos, Kristen Tarragó, Sebastian Trevińo, Zaiedd Vélez, and Marina Vidal.

Flanked by this ensemble, Lauren Danielle Horgan is just the latest example of an understudying shattering the notion that these hardworking performers are anything less than top-notch. The role of Gloria is a massive lift for any actress as it requires a unicorn - one who possesses the vocal chops of one of pop music's greatest icons, a full body workout in the numerous dance numbers, and the acting ability to weave through both the highs and lows of Estefan's life. Horgan, who typically plays the role of Gloria's sister Rebecca (Emilee Hassanzadeh at this performance), is outstanding as Estefan in all facets, and she's complimented by the terrific abilities of Samuel Garnica as Emilio. Garnica captures the strong-willed, never-say-die energy of Emilio but brings a nuanced kindness that makes the character instantly likable. It helps that he also nails the opportunities to inject both charisma and comedy into the character as well.

Several other supporting roles stand out as well with very few weak links present if any at all. Adela Romero's Consuelo is a delightful warm hug of a performance and Francisca Tapia's Gloria Fajardo captures the complicated relationship with her pop superstar daughter. Max Cervantes's voice is showcased as Gloria's father José Fajardo, and Augusto Guardado can't help but steal multiple scenes as the Estefan's music producer, Phil.

With outstanding choreography, a smorgasbord of great performances, and high-energy production numbers, it's hard not to leave with a smile on your face from this production. The magic of the Broadway production has traveled well to Tysons, and you will only have a limited time to catch this stellar production. Yes, I will say it - get ON YOUR FEET! and be sure not to miss this production.

ON YOUR FEET! features a book by Alexander Dinelaris featuring music produced and recorded by Emilio & Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine. The production is exceptionally choreographed and directed by Luis Salgado with assistance by Claudia Mullet (Associate Director) and Shani Talmor (Associate Choreographer). The creative team includes Clifton Chadwick (Scenic Design), Jeannette Christensen (Costume Design), Ryan J. O'Gara (Lighting Design), Diego Garzón​​​​​​​ (Sound Design), Patrick W. Lord (Projection Design), Bobbie Zlotnik (Hair & Wig Design), and Daniel Gutierrez (Music Direction).

ON YOUR FEET! plays Capital One Hall in Tysons, VA from April 21-23, 2023. The show runs approximately 2 hours and 30 mins with one intermission.

Tickets can be purchased by visiting the website here.

Photo Credit: DJ Corey


To post a comment, you must register and login.