It comes with an exclamation mark in its title. Infectious beats, an emotive story and music known all over the world, On Your Feet(!) finally debuted on the London stage this summer. For an extremely limited run from mid June to the end of August at the London Coliseum theatre, the production went from the West End stage to touring the UK and Ireland.
The show details the inspiring (and true) love story between Emilio and Gloria and the journey from humble beginnings in Cuba, out on to the streets of Miami and to eventual superstardom. As the story progresses you get to hear all of the classics you would expect, including Dr Beat, I-2-3 and Get On Your Feet as well as slower ballads which really help to illustrate the story and prove that life is not all about the Conga! It is seriously hard to write this post without making song title puns.
The cast features Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and George Ioannides as Emilio, however as I went to the Thursday afternoon matinee performance, I saw Philippa Stefani in the role of Gloria, who was nothing short of a sensation in her own right.
Winner of almost 30 Grammy Awards, Gloria Estefan has sold over 100 million records across the world. The music in this show is the sort of sound that even if you think you do not know a single song, you will hear something and it will sound familiar; you know it, you just don’t know you know it!
Personally, I was really impressed with the vocals in this show which were incredibly strong across the board. I even found myself liking the performance by Madalena Alberto, who I had previously seen in Evita and Cats and really hated the sound of in those roles. Again, personal preference prevails and I felt Alberto was much better suited to the sound of this musical than the other, more classical roles, playing Gloria’s mother in On Your Feet!
Through a number of flashbacks, we start by seeing a young Gloria singing and dancing around her family home, spurred on by her grandmother. It is grandma who encourages the youngster to try for anything and everything music related and this eventually leads her to a meeting with Emilio Estefan, and the love story begins. With their shared passion for the music, and soon with each other, they become a force to be reckoned with in the music industry of the day.
As they work on building their brand, they are relegated to Spanish venues and how they go about getting their own name out there is truly inspiring. I guess this would be comparable to an artist self promoting on social media in 2019. One of my favourite parts of the show was when they were going from door to door, performing at any wedding or bar mitzvah they could wrangle.
Like with any good story though, the success brings with it a plethora of personal issues and problems for the couple, from life on the road. A road accident then lands Gloria in hospital crippled. quite literally, by the possibility of never walking again, but she survived and made the come back of a lifetime.
One of the reasons I think the show has been so successful is because it does not try to be what is isn’t. Many shows of artist stories can often become cheesy or cliche as the producers try to bend the story to fit the music or vise versa. This show simply tells the story of Gloria Estefan and reminds the audience that there are no guarantees in life and through the disappointments and let downs you survive because of the people you have around you.
Whilst I only got to see the show one time on the West End stage, I would love to see it again on its tour around the UK.
Does this show sound like one you would enjoy? Perhaps you have already seen it – what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.