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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
ON YOUR FEET!
at Marquis Theatre

WHITEWASHED SOUL
By MATT WINDMAN

  Ph: Matthew Murphy

At this point, it can be safely assumed that every well-known musician and band will eventually receive a “jukebox musical” comprised of their hit songs. Mamma Mia! finally closed in September after a 14-year run, but Jersey Boys and Beautiful are still around, and many more will follow in future years. The temptation to simply plug well-known songs around a flimsy storyline is just too strong for producers to resist.
 
Newest on the block is On Your Feet!, an occasionally fun new musical about Cuban-American pop star Gloria Estefan and her husband, Grammy-winning producer Emilio Estefan, which is built around the catchy songs created by them and the Miami Sound Machine, such as “Conga” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.” While act one observes Gloria’s journey to becoming a popular singer with crossover appeal under Emilio's guidance, act two follows her physical recovery after a violent car accident in 1990.
 
On Your Feet! has a whitewashed, corporate-approved texture, which makes Gloria and Emilio come off as utterly devoid of personality in spite of their accomplishments and personal drama. It's so self-congratulatory that one gets the impression that they personally vetted every line that went into Alexander Dinelaris’ bland book. In structure, it is very reminiscent of Beautiful, which itself felt like an imitation of Funny Girl. The key difference here is that the leading lady is not deserted by her husband.
 
The production (directed by Jerry Mitchell and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo) comes to life during upbeat production numbers, which have lively, salsa-flavored movement and a hot percussive sound. It feels rather like a pop concert that is too often paused. In the most inventive sequence, “The Conga” is introduced at a Bar Mitzvah and an Italian wedding, and the cast then enlists audience members to join a conga line in the aisles. But more often than not, it gets mired in flashbacks about her family and other downbeat sequences in which the songs lack impact.
 
Ana Villafañe, an unknown who won the role of Gloria Estefan, is a beauty with a bright presence. Appropriately, she is herself Cuban-American and went to the same high school as Estefan. She receives solid support from Josh Segarra as the gentle Emilio and Andréa Burns as Gloria’s protective mother. But the real standout may be Eduardo Hernandez, a young boy who is one hell of a dancer and Bar Mitzvah boy. 

 


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