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Review: ON YOUR FEET, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: ON YOUR FEET, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: ON YOUR FEET, New Wimbledon Theatre With 22 Grammys and hundreds of millions in worldwide sales, the potentially fascinating story of Gloria Estefan, her husband Emilio and their journey to success with the Miami Sound Machine has the potential to be a fantastic jukebox musical. On Your Feet has plenty of material to draw upon; with an intricate journey through issues of immigration, racism and a life-threatening accident, it is a fun and frothy evening.

Based on the book by Alexander Dinelaris, we follow the teenage Gloria and how she meets Emilio as a singer for his band. The story quickly skips through her mother's disapproval and moves to the barriers they face as they try to get the American music industry to listen to their music, deemed too Latin to be commercially successful. As their success builds, Gloria has a horrific accident, requiring major surgery and months of treatment to recover.

Jerry Mitchell's production ran on Broadway in 2015 for two years. The show then ran at the London Coliseum last summer and is now on a nationwide tour. The UK must be a tougher market for this show than the US; as well-known as Gloria Estefan might be here, she is a legend in the US and much of the Spanish-speaking world. That said, the production has bags of energy and is an interesting enough story to engage the audience.

There is very little to make of the story of Gloria and Emilio themselves; they meet, fall in love and stay together. What adds to the story is their struggles through various adversities. Philippa Stefani is a cracking Gloria, from a shyly beautiful take on "Anything For You", used to reveal her talent to Emilio, to a professional powerhouse in "Dr Beat".

George Ioannides is a charming and devoted Emilio, with real passion showing particularly when he is fighting the record executives for a chance. His character is a little underwritten at points but Ioannides and Stefani have good chemistry and make their falling in love and subsequent relationship very believable.

Madalena Alberto is suitably bitter and suspicious as Gloria's mother Gloria Fajardo; life has dealt her a difficult hand and she finds it very hard to trust Emilio and his intentions regarding her daughter. A flashback scene to where she may have become a professional singer and dancer herself is particularly effective.

The ensemble work is impressive, with good vocals and sharp choreography by Sergio Trujillo. Particularly effective is the ensemble version of "Reach", where the actors transform into fans who send touching messages to Gloria after she has her near-fatal accident.

Today, it seems like every other pop song has a Latin influence, but when Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine released "Conga" in 1985, it was seminal moment that has had profound influences on pop music ever since. It is not until seeing the show that you are reminded just how many hits the couple have produced. From "Dr Beat" to "1-2-3" to the groundbreaking "Conga", the music is infectious and brilliantly arranged by Clay Ostwald, who has worked with the Estefans for over 32 years. There is also good use of the lesser-known songs, so there is a real sense of demonstrating a full body of work, rather than just the hits.

Overall, this is a highly entertaining and professional production. Even if you are not the greatest fan of the music, the rhythm will certainly get you.

On Your Feet is at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 29 February, then touring

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

From This Author - Aliya Al-Hassan

Aliya Al-Hassan is UK Managing Editor of BroadwayWorld. A London-based theatre critic and journalist, she has a life-long passion for the arts, with a focus on theatre and opera. She is a... (read more about this author)

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