REVIEW by Anthony Chase: ON YOUR FEET! THE MUSICAL

On Your Feet! The Musical has started its national tour here in Buffalo, previous to its Miami opening. Emilio and Gloria Estefan themselves were on hand to launch this joyous celebration of their career and their love for each other. It is a slightly altered production from Broadway, but in some very satisfying ways – slightly adjusted set, some additional choreography.

Yes, the show still boasts magnificent Alma Cuervo, irresistible as Gloria’s grandmother, who supports young Gloria’s musical aspirations despite the discouraging influence of the girl’s mother.

Gloria’s mom, we learn, lost the chance to become the Spanish voice of Shirley Temple when her father blocked her show business career. Mom’s jealousy, along with the caution born of sacrifices she was forced to make by being exiled from Cuba at the time of the revolution, cause her to block Gloria’s every ambition. Nancy Ticotin plays this role, which has been amplified in order to make use of Ticotin’s superior dancing talent. She is marvelous as the withholding mother. She soars in a flashback to her last night as a performer in Cuba and she effects one of the evening’s most emotional moments when her icy exterior finally melts.

Christie Prades and Mauricio Martinez are sensational as Gloria and Emilio. There is wonderful chemistry between these two charismatic performers. Prades approximates the timber of Gloria’s much adored voice, and is lovable in her every scene. Martinez, a Mexican musical theater star with a terrific voice, projects magnetic charm. We yearn for this couple to get together. We crumble when their happiness is threatened.

Buffalo’s own Devon Goffman is wonderfully entertaining in multiple roles, most notably as the Estefan’s culturally insensitive New York record producer.

The production makes excellent use of both its male and female choruses – though at intermission, it was the men who seemed to be attracting praise from the audience with their muscular and energetic execution of Sergio Trujillo’s excellent choreography. For the record, that especially handsome dancer, who seems to glide across the floor without effort is Hector Maisonet, who was part of the Broadway company. (Find photos of him online with Broadway legend Chita Rivera).

Among the best of the Broadway biography shows, fans of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine will delight in this superior production. (Shows about Cher, Josephine Baker, Donna Summer, and producer Don Cornelius are in the works).

The fact that Buffalo got to see On Your Feet! first is something special, and the reason the real Estefans graced our city for a few days. It is exciting for Buffalo to be part of the On Your Feet journey. The company is working out the kinks of the complex, multi-million dollar show here, previous to Miami and the rest of the nation. On opening night a scenery collision stopped the show while stage hands cleaned up broken glass. This mishap served to heighten local appreciation for this lively and life-affirming show, and for the part our city played in helping share this show with the nation.

On Your Feet! continues at Shea’s through September 30th, before beginning performances in Miami On October 5th.