After waking up to the first day of frost the Miami heat of ‘On Your Feet’ is welcomed like a burst of sunshine.
The musical, on its first UK tour, arrives at Manchester’s Palace Theatre with a top-notch, West End cast and terrific 7-piece band, led by Danny Belton. And unless you’re averse to Latin music (in which case stay at home) the rhythm is gonna get’cha tonight.
The Latin-pop sound of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine from the 1980s and early 90s is infectious. Its catchy beats catapulted the group to 38 number 1 hits across the Billboard charts, selling more than 100 million records worldwide, with the Estafans winning 26 Grammy awards between them. Years on, the tunes’ Cuban vibes still transport us in an instant to sunnier climes.
In essence, ‘On Your Feet’ is a juke box, biographical musical with lead singer, Gloria Estefan at its centre. Here the songs are wrapped around the story of the band’s rags-to-riches success, focusing on the central love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, whose families separately fled Cuba during the revolution to make a new life in the States.
Theirs is a love story with longevity – not something we’re used to in the celebrity world. Rather than the almighty rows and relationship blow-ups we’ve become accustomed to fuelling dramatic conflict, Alexander Dinelaris’ book finds the drama in the band’s struggle for recognition, immigration tensions, health problems and an interfering mother-in-law, Gloria Fajardo (Madalena Alberta).
Philippa Stefani is in perfect voice as Gloria, while George Ioannides makes for a hunky and charming, Emilio.
But just as it was music that brought the Estefan’s together, their music and the dance it ignites is the real heart of this show, with the band on stage giving the action at times a full concert effect.
For Estefan fans there is no shortage of hits with iconic pop following iconic pop song, including: ‘Dr Beat’, ‘Conga’, ‘Get On Your Feet’, ‘Don’t Want To Lose You’, ‘Here we Are’, and ‘1-2-3’. David Rockwell’s set design is minimal – small changes of furniture and a couple of screens that move across the stage with Darrel Maloney’s projection setting the scenes. The real eye-grabber here is Sergio Trujillo’s Tony Award nominated choreography that fizzes with energy throughout with sensational salsa and acrobatic leaps.
For the finale medley everyone is on their feet. By now the beat is in our bones and we’re conga-dancing our way out of the theatre. It’s glorious. Olé, Olé!★ ★ ★ ★