Friday, April 22, 2016

Review of "On Your Feet!"

·      Maybe it was the half-filled orchestra?
·      Maybe it was the underwhelming vibe of a 7PM Tuesday night audience?
·      Maybe it was the gaggle of Long Island women seated behind me talking incessantly throughout the show?
·      Maybe it was sitting through the unassuming performance of the stand-in for the female lead?

Whatever the reason(s), I was hugely disenchanted after leaving On Your Feet!, the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, at the Marquis Theatre.  The reviews and word-of-mouth had been positive so I was expecting an entertaining and, possibly, lively evening based on the recording artist’s songbook.  Instead, it felt like the show was slightly out-of-phase, not totally in sync.

The musical tells of the rise of Ms. Estefan from humble beginnings in Miami’s Little Cuba to pop superstardom.  Family strife and struggles, her courtship and marriage to the forceful and headstrong Emilio, and her near death experience are all catalogued.  The book by Alexander Dinelaris introduces the plot in a matter-of-fact presentation style without enough compelling exposition.   It was interesting to learn about the behind-the-scenes deal making within the music business and the couple’s struggles within the record industry.  But, besides that aspect of the show, there was not enough dramatic ferment to draw me into their stories.

The score is a cavalcade of hits and other songs released by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine during the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  They include such fan favorites as “Conga,” “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “Anything for You,” and “Don’t Wanna Lose You.”  The best are delivered when the sizzling on-stage band cranks up the latin beat.

Linedy Genao, standing in for Ana Villafane, didn’t quite bring the sizzle to the Gloria Estefan role.  Unfortunately, for this performance, an actress needs to completely command the stage, have the audience in the palm of her hand.  That special, je ne sais quoi aura, was noticeably absent.  Josh Segarra, as Emilio, with his thick, sometimes hard to understand accented speech, is obstinate impassioned, and obsessed with success.  He brings fervor to his performance, just not enough nuance.  Andrea Burns gives some depth to her role as Gloria’s mother, a woman with strong convictions and temperament.  Alma Cuervo, as the singer’s grandmother, brings a welcome comedic presence to the show.

Director Jerry Mitchell knows movement and has been honored for his own choreographic stints.  Here, he does a wonderful job setting the stage for choreographer Sergio Trujillo, but the non-dance numbers don’t coalesce to from a dynamic whole.  They came across as individual scenes as opposed to a finely orchestrated composition.

Choreographer Sergio Trujillo does offer up a dazzling, flashy, and simply scintillating number of full-throttled production numbers.  They consistently energize the production at the most opportune moments.

On Your Feet!, a flawed jukebox musical that occasionally excites but, more often then not, disappoints.

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