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I Dare You To Stay In Your Seat During “On Your Feet!”

Review by Spenser Smith of On Your Feet: Broadway in Cincinnati

I challenge you to stay in your seat during the energetic, yet poignant production based on the lives and music of the 26-time Grammy Award-winning husband-and-wife team of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, now onstage at the Aronoff Center.

The musical has a book written by Alexander Dinelaris and a score built around the Cuban-pop music made famous by Gloria Estefan. If you’re not dancing in the aisles at the end of the first act, just wait for the concert you’ve been expecting the whole show at the end of Act Two.

Major congratulations is due to director Jerry Mitchell, who has proven himself a master of movement. His direction/choreography in productions of Hairspray, Legally Blonde and Kinky Books speaks for itself. He is a master of pace. He completely understands what it means to “move the show along.” We never stay too long in a moment that would otherwise beg for a yawn or a trip to the restroom. The seventy-five minute first act feels like just a glimpse of the tragedy that the real Gloria has experienced, and it turns out to be just that.

Christie Prades (Gloria) is perfect as the small-town girl turned superstar that never wanted the attention. She would have never gotten her start had it not been for the urgency of her soon-to-be companion and manager played with vigor by Eddie Noel (Emilio). Her mother, protective yet not unlike the mother of Gypsy Rose Lee, played with warm tenacity by Nancy Ticotin (Gloria Fajardo), hopes she will stay home to help care for her sick father. We know very quickly she wishes her daughter to have all she never could and she gets her time to shine too. If her mother is given pause, Debra Dardona (Consuelo) is there to do everything she can to help Gloria succeed. She’s hysterical.

The story is built around the trials and tribulations of the Estefan ascension to fame including the highs and lows, in sickness and in health. If you’re looking for your stereotypical jukebox musical, On Your Feet has so much more. The Estefan story is on full display. You hear the songs you want to hear, but you also glimpse the moments you may not have known before. As Emilio says to a skeptical studio executive who doesn’t believe a Latin beat can “crossover”: “You may not think so, but this is what America looks like.” I think this is a show everyone should see just for that moment. See this show to see something you may not understand. What better reason to go to the theatre? I learned something, and I think you could too.

If you don’t believe me, maybe this line from a young patron in front of me at intermission:

“It’s just as good as Hamilton.” And it’s so much fun!

On Your Feet continues at the Aronoff Center through March 24 . For tickets, visit the box office located at 650 Walnut Street , call 513-621-2787 [ARTS] or you can order online at cincinnatiarts.org.