London Theatre Review: On Your Feet! at the London Coliseum
| By Shanine Salmon
(Updated on Jul 22, 2019)
The long-awaited Gloria Estefan musical transfers to London after making its US debut in 2015. On Your Feet! is the biopic of Estefan, from her Miami childhood after her parents fled Cuba after the revolution to her early nineties success.
Estefan, as part of the Miami Sound Machine founded by Emilio Estefan who has been her husband for 40 years and as a solo artist, has an extensive back catalogue. On Your Feet! is not only the name of one of her catchy numbers but also the reaction the audience have to her music.
The role of Gloria is shared by Christine Prades and Phillipa Steffani with George Ionnanides as Emilio. Whilst this is Gloria’s show and has always been Gloria’s show (the Miami Sound Machine added her name to reflect her popularity) this production seems to be a tribute to Emilio; the man behind the machine, the man behind Gloria’s success and the man who pushed Gloria into going to see the President of the United States, just before her horrific bus accident that broke her back.
I don’t think Emilio needs this treatment considering their long and successful marriage, their pro-LGBT rights, being anti-drugs, making a success of themselves as immigrants. The Estefans are just really nice people which at times doesn’t make for the most interesting show. I found myself comparing this show to Tina, Ike is also a shadowy figure like Emilio but Emilio doesn’t beat or belittle Gloria. Even the tensions with Gloria Senior, played Madalena Alberto who gives one of the best performances of the night as a woman with great potential who resents her daughter’s success, are treated sympathetically.
The lack of antagonist is refreshing. You have Karen Mann as Gloria’s supportive grandmother Consuelo but it does feel like a rush through Gloria’s career. You see some brief struggles but it does seem she achieved success easily and life events are skipped over, like the birth of their son as they were trying to make a name for themselves or the death of key characters like her father and beloved grandmother. It is a feel-good musical that focuses on the good times, such as the creation and marketing of Conga and her world tour.
Not all musicals have to be deep and a musical that focuses on the music, without sacrificing the book is refreshing. The music is the star, all the hits feature and the context works; often showing how the hits were created and putting a real personal touch to the dance classics.
On Your Feet! knows its audience are those who remember Gloria at her peak and perhaps at their peak too. Ultimately, it is difficult to come out and not have a great time, there are fantastic costumes, energetic choreography from Sergio Trujillo, a real sense of 1970s/80s Miami and the depiction of Cuban diaspora as they merge their American home with their Cuban identity.
I would thoroughly recommend, whatever your generation, whatever your knowledge of Estefan. This is a fun musical that finds drama in the nicest of lives and the nicest of people.
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