To call On Your Feet!: The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan a jukebox musical insults this Broadway production’s complexity, warmth and passion. It is currently playing on Broadway at the Marquis Theatre.
While it does, in fact, use the music of the Miami Sound Machine to tell the story of its creators, far more is going on here than mere Estefan numbers being rattled off. Ana Villafañe plays Gloria Estefan from the age of 17 until her early 30s and does a spectacular job capturing Estefan’s voice, her mannerisms and even her look. And while Villafañe has been with the show since it opened last year, newcomer Ektor Rivera is a recent addition to the cast as Emilio Estefan. The chemistry between the two is splendid, whether they’re singing or having their characters fall in love as they get to know each other.
While the first half of the show deals with the Fajardo family (Gloria Estefan’s family) fleeing Castro’s Cuba, we are introduced to the pillars behind the family’s survival—Estefan’s grandmother Consuelo (Alma Cuervo) and her mother Gloria Fajardo (Andréa Burns). We learn that Estefan’s father, José Fajardo (Eliseo Roman), served in the U.S. military and was always encouraging his daughter to pursue her dream, but later became infirm and would be cared for by Estefan even as her success grew.
This insight as a caregiver would come in to play as the musical addresses the severe spinal injury Gloria Estefan suffered during a 1990 tour bus accident. This is all part of the story that includes the Estefans grappling with preconceived notions by the music industry of whether commercial crossover success was possible from a group that had thrived in the Spanish-language market (it was) and the rift that opened up between Estefan’s mother and husband.
The message throughout the show is one of determination and an unwillingness to give up until you capture that dream thanks to steely resolve, an inability to accept no for an answer and the strength of a family’s love. It’s a message that’s relatable regardless of what your native language is.
On Your Feet! is at the Marquis Theatre, 46th St. between Broadway & 8th Ave. Get tickets at onyourfeetmusical.com or call Ticketmaster at 877-250-2929.