Interview/Review by Christine Thompson

Have you ever been told “NO” over and over, had your dreams dashed by people or circumstances beyond your control? Told you can’t, or you’re not good enough… not smart enough… don’t push the envelope…don’t try to be different?  Then “On Your Feet” is for you.

From their humble beginnings in Cuba, Emilio and Gloria Estefan came to America and broke through all barriers to become a crossover sensation at the very top of the pop music world.  But just when they thought they had it all, they almost lost everything.

In this cultural mish-mash we call the United States,  people from all over the world have a unique opportunity to meld the best ideas in an environment that is meant to be tolerant of all races, religions, genders and ethnicities. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the creative class, the artists who reflect the soul of the people during the best and worst of times.

“On Your Feet,” the broadway play about Gloria and Emilio Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine, is a classic immigrant story. It is at once emotional and triumphant, a dizzying display of dance and song, with family values at the center. Their intense pride and love for both Cuba, their country of origin, and the United States, their adopted home is reflected in the humorous dialogue, the asides between both Gloria and Emilio, as well as the heart wrenching back-story of how both ended up in America during Castro’s rise to power in Cuba.

On Tuesday November 21st, Houston audiences cheered, clapped and even wept as “On Your Feet” regaled them with the familiar rhythms of Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine, giving a standing ovation at the end with some patrons literally dancing out the exit doors at the end. (This is true…saw it with my own eyes.) There are actually five original member of The Miami Sound Machine in the band (trumpets and brass) who provide the live music to accompany the vocals, so of course the audience was dancing. They sang “the rythym is gonna get you” – and it did.

Christie Prades and Mauricio Martinez in “On Your Feet”

Acclaimed Broadway star Alma Cuervo, who played Gloria’s grandmother Consuelo, told AMFM Magazine last week the play resonates more than ever before in these divisive times. Cuervo, who hails from Tampa, Florida and has a Spanish and Cuban background, said the story is the classic American Dream. “It’s everybody’s story, and totally recognizable,” she said. “Right now we really need it, it’s healing and inspiring for everyone who sees it.”

Cuervo is proud of the production, relating that there are not that many jobs on Broadway for Latinas, and the actors in this play are ALL Latin. Cuervo’s hilarious depiction of Consuelo is a warm and loving look at the inside workings of a strong family uprooted by circumstances and tied together by a matriarch who will stop at nothing to ensure that her granddaughter Gloria gets her shot at fame.

This is a second chance for Consuelo, who’s daughter was a gifted singer in Cuba – actually tapped by Hollywood to be the voice of Shirley Temple. Unfortunately her dream was ripped away due to circumstances, so Consuelo is determined this time to not let opportunity pass by her granddaughter.

Gloria has to fight her own innate shyness as well as cultural norms and even her own mother, who is still heartbroken over the missed opportunity and insists Gloria concentrate on her studies(Gloria studied psychology.)

“On Your Feet” is a stirring story of love, family, country and honor. Gloria, portrayed by Christie Prades (Orange is The New Black) and Emilio, portrayed by Mauricio Martinez (One of Mexico’s biggest soap stars, as well as roles in Disney’s “Beauty & The Beast” and “Saturday Night Fever”) show strong chemistry as they weave the past together through dance and song – towards the fateful moment the bus crash changed their lives forever.

Special mention for Jordan Vergara, who plays Gloria’s son Nayib as well as the young Emilio. He dances with rhythm and joy, and boundless energy. Also a joy to watch is Nancy Ticotin (Law & Order: SVU” and “Orange is the New Black”) who portrays Gloria’s mother Gloria Fajardo. She sings with a voice strong and beautiful, playing through both her pain and love of her daughter with a stubborn willfulness.

“On Your Feet” will be touring across America from sea to shining sea.  See if your city is on this TOUR SCHEDULE

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