The Jukebox Musical.
It’s become one of the most popular forms of musical as of late. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, a jukebox musical is basically a musical made around the life story of a musical artist, using their most popular songs as the score. The “gold standard” is probably Jersey Boys, with all others trying to live up to the success of that show with varying degrees of success.
On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical is not only a mouthful, but it’s also playing this week at the Civic Center Music Hall through Sunday, February 10th. Going into it, I wasn’t sure that it was a story that I could get behind. I knew some of Gloria Estefan’s biggest hits – which are all great – but I wasn’t sure there was enough substance there to create an interesting show that relied on the success of her music and career. Boy was I wrong.
Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and Company, ON YOUR FEET! © Matthew Murphy - Photo by Matthew Murphy
The story of Gloria and Emilio isn’t anything too out of the ordinary (minus their later success as a powerful singing/songwriting/producing couple). They’re introduced, they fall in love, they find success, and (thankfully), Emilio isn’t a jerk (something that tends to happen a lot in these types of love stories). But what really makes the show are the stories outside of their own – Gloria’s family’s struggle with her father who has Multiple Sclerosis, her falling out with her mother, and a music industry that wants to pigeon-hole the Miami Sound Machine into one style of music and one type of audience. Ultimately what you get is a struggle for acceptance in a world that is biased towards people of another race and culture (a poignant message in this current political climate), and a story of overcoming that struggle to live the American Dream.
Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan, Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and Devon Goffman as Phil, ON YOUR FEET! © Matthew Murphy - Photo by Matthew Murphy
The story elements in On Your Feet! are definitely there, but where the show really shines is in the music – and really more specifically the band. Foregoing an orchestra below the stage for an actual band on stage, the music is front and center and in your face the whole time and often, it really does give the show that concert feel. Oh, and did I mention that four of the original members of the Miami Sound Machine are in the band? It lends an authenticity to what you’re hearing and you can feel the passion of the band throughout the show. Also, much like Gloria Estefan’s music, the score relies on big, bombastic musical numbers thick with Cuban flavor to drive the show, and it absolutely shines throughout. I realized while watching the show that I’m a fan of Cuban music and to hear it come alive in such a way with such passion was truly a treat.
ON YOUR FEET! Band featuring members of the Miami Sound Machine: Clay Ostwald (Music Director/Keyboard), Jorge Casas (bass), Edward Bonilla (percussion) and Theodore Mulet (trombone), © Matthew Murphy - Photo by Matthew Murphy
The costuming of the show is fun and colorful. It has its appropriateness and feels right to the time period, but also has its moments of flair, especially in the bigger dance numbers. Speaking of which, if you like Cuban and Latin dance then this is the show for you. The choreography amongst the cast was some of the best I’ve seen and it’s clear they’re very well rehearsed. I really enjoyed watching the choreography and this is coming from someone that’s not the biggest fan of dancing in shows. It was powerful and exciting and I didn’t want to stop watching it. The set is simplistic but not in a bad way. It actually serves to keep the pace of the show and keep the focus on the actors and story, rather than distracting with big, impressive set pieces. The cast – led by Eddie Noel as Emilio and Christine Prades as Gloria – is wonderful. You can tell the love and passion they have for the show and they’re all very talented. Some of the best moments are when they’re all on stage singing together and the vocal power of the ensemble hits you. There’s also a lot of humor in the show. On Your Feet! does a great job of striking that balance between humor and drama, never allowing either to linger too long and overtake the tone of the show.
Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, Adriel Flete and Company, ON YOUR FEET! © Matthew Murphy - Photo by Matthew Murphy
Is On Your Feet! the best Jukebox Musical out there? In my opinion, no. But it’s up there as one of the best I’ve seen, which is surprising given my pre-conceived notions going in. But after watching the show, maybe it exemplifies what Emilio and Gloria have done best their whole careers – breaking those pre-conceived notions about them, their culture, and their music. Their story is one of two children of Cuban immigrants – people that came to America in search of a better life for their family – living the American Dream and weaving themselves into the tapestry of the melting-pot of the United States. It’s a story that’s so important in this day and age and one that people should see, to remind ourselves of who we are as Americans – that we should embrace the many cultures and differences that meld together to make this country great.
Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and Company, ON YOUR FEET! © Matthew Murphy - Photo by Matthew Murphy
On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical runs at the Civic Center Music Hall through this Sunday, February 10 th . There are still plenty of great seats still available, including a limited number of $26 rush tickets to all performances for students, educators, senior citizens, and military personnel at the Civic Center box office beginning 2 hours prior to each performance. Regular tickets for all remaining performances can also be purchased any time by calling 405-594-8300, by visiting the Civic Center box office Monday – Friday from 10am – 5pm, or by going online to OKCBroadway.com !