Selling over 100 million records and winning 26 Grammy Awards alongside her husband Emilio, Gloria Estefan has had a very noteworthy musical career. However, her full and fully powerful story wasn’t quite as well known as her music…until now. On Your Feet! tells the complete story of Gloria Estefan’s life, never shying away from the more challenging moments, and incorporating all of her smash hits (and more) along the way. Onstage now at Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), directed by Jerry Mitchell, this musical about music and its power is not one to miss.
The show starts with a grown, famous Gloria, talking with her husband after a sold-out Washington, DC show and then backtracks to the past, when Gloria was just a young girl with a dream. The script chronicles the first time Gloria meets Emilio (Mauricio Martinez), their gradual love story, and the clever and inventive ways in which the two work together to overcome stereotypes and make their music popular with everyone. The story also touches on their history as the children of immigrants and how this has affected their drive and determination to succeed.
And, while the subject matter may be serious, there are lots of lighthearted moments and fun along the way. The snazzy choreography by Sergio Trujillo and, of course, the music drives the show and keeps it from ever feeling too heavy-handed. Likewise, plenty of comedic moments and the fully-realized and relatable characters make the production intriguing from beginning to end, whether one happens to be a seasoned Gloria Estefan fan or not.
Speaking of Gloria Estefan, it is hard to imagine a more perfect portrayal of her than the one given by understudy Arianna Rosario at Tuesday’s opening night performance. Likeable, spunky, and similar in appearance to the musical superstar, Rosario nails the role and shares stellar chemistry with Martinez, who gives a hilarious, endearing portrayal of Emilio. Another standout is Nancy Ticotin, who plays Gloria’s difficult but ultimately loving mother with just the right emotional touches.
With this strong cast and perfect music, as well as the powerful story behind it all, On Your Feet! is ultimately an uplifting, enjoyable story. Superior to many of the other “music musicals” that have come out as of late, On Your Feet is a standout show for its ability to inspire, much like the Estefans themselves.