Theatre Review: ‘On Your Feet!’ at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

For the second year in a row, Shea’s Buffalo Theater has been the tour kickoff venue for a new national tour. Grammy Award-winning Cuban-American couple Gloria & Emilio Estefan were in town this week to launch the first national tour of their musical, “On Your Feet!”

An inspiring, exhilarating show.

A jukebox musical based on the lives and music of the two iconic artists with a book by Alexander Dinelaris, “On Your Feet!” utilizes the Estefans’ most powerful and memorable songs to shed light on the struggles leading up to their success, including fighting radio station disc jockeys and record company executives about their music is identified and being told they are “too Latin” for mainstream stations or “not Latin enough” for Latin music stations.

The new national tour got off to a shaky start Saturday night when, after starting late, a set piece fell and a mirror broke a few minutes into the first act. While it required a swift and professional pause to clean up the glass, the incident was soon forgotten as the audience was transported to Gloria’s childhood neighborhood in Miami. Immediately, there is an explosion of vivid colors, rich music and inspiring choreography as the cast got into the groove and we met Christie Prades, who stars as Gloria.

Tasked with the always difficult challenge of portraying a living person, Prades is sweet and relatable as Gloria. Her voice is quite strong and she, like Gloria, blossoms into her element as a performer after meeting Emilio and being asked to join the Miami Latin Boys (which later became Miami Sound Machine). Prades came straight from the Broadway production where she was a Gloria cover, and there’s no doubt she’s earned her shot at this role.

Mauricio Martinez plays Emilio, Gloria’s musical collaborator and eventual husband. Martinez is undeniably sexy and has killer pipes for the role, leaving most the audience swooning after him whenever he’s onstage. However, where Martinez truly succeeds is when he pushes past his smolder and delivers many of the show’s most passionate dialogue. One of his lines when speaking to a record company executive, “This is what an American looks like,” garnered roaring applause from the audience.

All of the supporting cast performs well, but it is Alma Cuervo reprising her role as Gloria’s grandmother Consuelo that really steals the show. She’s sassy, supportive and strong; her only fault is not appearing onstage more often.

Many of the upbeat numbers, including the vibrant Act 1 finale, “Conga,” are incredibly fun to watch. Sergio Trujillo’s choreography is nothing short of perfection in my book, featuring some incredible dance combinations, lifts and difficult tricks. The ensemble is made of strong dancers who do his work justice.

Emilio Sosa’s extensive and colorful costumes are a joy to behold as well as impressive in number. Paired with Kenneth Posner’s lighting design, the production is visually stunning. Another impressive note about the touring production, directed by Jerry Mitchell, is the incredible onstage orchestra which includes original members of Miami Sound Machine.

Despite feeling thin at times, especially in the second act, the true story behind the musical is undeniably timely and important. There are many moments such as the aforementioned line from Emilio that strike a loud chord with the audience. At its heart, this isn’t just a story about music. It’s about two incredibly talented Cuban-Americans fighting to make their voices and their music heard. When they were told to change their sound, they refused and ended up carving their own path to success.

“On Your Feet!” is an inspiring, exhilarating show. There’s no doubt you’ll be dancing in your seat.

Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes including intermission

“On Your Feet!” runs through September 30th at Shea’s Buffalo Theater. For more information, click here.