If you think this is just an ordinary sit-down-and-listen-to-show-tunes type of musical, you’re mistaken. Selecting the title song “On Your Feet” was a wise choice because it depicts the total experience most accurately. The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical tells the story of how the power couple rose to fame and the bumpy road they took to get there.
They were an unlikely match. She was young and impressionable and he was a little older and much more experienced. She was known to have a gift for writing but seemed too shy for anything else. He had a knack for music and performance and saw in her more than what she saw in herself. It was Gloria’s (Christie Prades) abuela Consuela (Alma Cuervo) who instilled the confidence and pride in her granddaughter to pursue her passion.
Outside of the much publicized bus accident in 1990 that nearly took her life, many know little about how Gloria Fajardo became Gloria Estefan, the Cuban crossover queen and won the hearts of fans worldwide. It certainly was no easy climb. She discovered her love for singing as an adolescent and would entertain the neighborhood who encouraged her talent. Her father, Jose Fajardo (Jason Martinez) fought battles of his own, serving in Vietnam, being away from his family, and other political battles. Only to come home and develop Multiple Sclerosis. But he never forgot about his family, Gloria especially. He did what every parent would do – encouraged his daughter from across the water, sending her recorded messages for her to listen to often. Gloria’s younger sister Rebecca (Claudia Yanez) also had a gift, but wasn’t quite as passionate as her big sister. She would one day share in Gloria’s dream, to the dismay of their mother, and travel all over the world, spreading the beats of Cuba.
From the beginning, Gloria’s mother, also named Gloria (Nancy Ticotin), staunchly disapproved of her daughter’s interest in performing, mainly due to envy. The senior Gloria was slated for stardom as the Latin Shirley Temple, but her father disapproved, citing her loyalty should be to her family, thus her career never got off the ground. Gloria senior performed a lounge-y number proving her talent is forever present.
The two fueded the better part of the stars career. The younger Gloria was determined enough to not allow her jealous mother to stand in her way. Even after her mother threatened to never speak with her again if sister Rebecca joined them on the road. Between the heart wrenching disagreements, the father’s death, and the Estefan’s fighting for what they knew was right, they had moments of celebration with favorites such as “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”, “Anything For You”, “1-2-3”, and 23 other songs that made them household names. The ensemble dances tore the house down and I noticed several patrons chair-dancing (including myself) with subtle salsa movements. The colors of Latin life illuminated every inch of the stage from beginning to end. Cuban scenery mingled with North America’s red, white, and blue, showing assimilation when the group Miami Sound Machine wanted to attract a more mainstream audience.
It was refreshing to see a muted culture being celebrated so freely and with what seemed to be a primarily Latin cast. From the young Gloria and Emilio showcasing their fancy footwork, to the mature husband and wife making a life on the road, dealing with tragedy, and reuniting relationships, “On Your Feet” is just what is needed to relax the tense climate attributed to the mistreatment of Latino’s in this country.
For more information visit www.blumenthalarts.org.