On Your Feet: Estefans dancing

Okee dokee folks… I have said this before and I will say it again, there are times when you wish that a show was happening more than one night so you can tell other folks to go see it. On Your Feet, The Gloria and Emilio Story is one of those.

Occasionally I like to take my mother as my plus one when I attend a show. Mom is a theatre aficionado who's seen more musicals over the past 70+ years than most could see in ten lifetimes. She has written reviews and conducted interviews for Motif in the past and I like to let her have her say when I feel her review will eclipse my own. This is the case here. So, in the words of Dianne Fuzek: 

On Your Feet, the story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan, a Jukebox Musical, was performed 0ne night only!! at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, affectionately called “The Z.” Before I say more, I found it mind-boggling that a production of that size and caliber could actually get their act together and take it on the road, as successful as it is, and perform one-night stands. The cast, musicians, and crew received well earned standing ovations.

My impression and review of this show is two-fold. Musically and performance-wise I give this production two thumbs up. There were amazing voices, energetic dancing, great musicians (lots of big sound from a 6-piece group!), and impressive costuming & lighting. About two dozen of the Estefan’s most famous songs aptly propelled the story. All making for a fun, fun, FUN show. 

Then, there is a BUT. There is way too much real story that needs space of its own. It is ultimately a love story. Human love and love for the art of creating music. This inspirational story included a tragic event that nearly ended Gloria Estefan’s life and career. Rehabilitation and love lead to her currently living an active life. 

Immediately upon opening, Gloria Estefan’s “The Rhythm is Gonna Get You” big, dance-heavy production number is being performed at a concert tour stop. Their young son is on the road with them. She is exhausted and recollects. They flashback to little Gloria being a dutiful daughter, doing laundry and always needing to worry about enough detergent, but dreaming of playing music, singing and writing songs. Her mother is disdainful of her dreams, reminding her of tradition. A wise and loving grandmother encourages the young girl and her talents. A talent apparently inherited from her mother, whose dreams had been curtailed. “Washing cleans the clothes, music cleans the soul,” Grandma says. Every day the same. Time passes. Another flashback to young Gloria’s dad serving in the military in Viet Nam. He proudly shares a tape of Gloria’s music with fellow servicemen who were impressed. 

We move forward to Emilio, whose band the Miami Latin Boys were interviewing singers and dancers. 17-year-old Gloria (who was pursuing a psychology degree) was encouraged to apply and made an impression musically, if not by dance. Emilio told her that she was “pretty good.” Her mother did not approve, and in a way displayed jealousy at her daughter’s good news. They became estranged. Gloria’s career and relationship with Emilio started slowly, but surely, with dreams of “something big.” Big in many ways. Big problems being recognized as not just a Latin musical group. They wanted to make their music in English and struggled to find their niche. When their agent was not being positive, Emilio angrily reminded him that the band lives here, pays taxes here – THIS is what an American looks like (which drew massive applause by the audience). Then, a name change to Miami Sound Machine. After doing “freebies” and low paying gigs at Bar Mitzvahs, Weddings and a Shriner’s Convention, (Funny bit!  All doing the Conga!) their agent witnesses the excitement of the Estefan’s music first hand. Along the way, Gloria and Emilio married and had a son.  

They were finally recognized, became famous and in-demand. Constantly on the road – the road to exhaustion, though. Then the tragic event – the tour bus collided with semi truck. Gloria was seriously injured. Media actually reported her demise, which devastated her mother. Arriving at the hospital, finding that Gloria had lived, but it was doubtful that she would ever walk again. Emilio urged her to be strong, she needed to be strong. This reunited her with her estranged mother, but Gloria was in a deep depression – certain she would never perform again. Emilio insisted and brought to her attention the thousands of fan letters praying and sending words of love and encouragement. 

She paid attention. Unbeknownst to Gloria, Emilio had made plans for her to play at the American Music Awards. She said NO!! NO!! He again insisted. Pushed her! She performed and sang “Coming out of the Dark,” a very pertinent song. She was back. This ended the show and the audience got on their feet! The cast launched into a very energetic grand finale with a BIG production recap of their most popular dance numbers and a mash up of some classic covers. This had the audience singing along happily while the band played on and kept them clapping and dancing long past the time when the cast took their bows.

It is really too bad that it was a one night only show. I am sure that word of mouth would have quickly spread to fill the room for many more performances! Last night’s show was near capacity which is great for a Wednesday night! If, in the future, this show congas through be sure to catch it! You will be glad you did. The rhythm will get you. 

Thanks to Dianne Fuzek for taking to the keyboard and reviewing this show! That’s it for now. Thanks for reading and listening.