“Shake Your Body Baby, Do the Conga”: A Review of “On Your Feet!”: The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical

Review by Alan Jozwiak of On Your Feet!: Broadway in Cincinnati

The song lyric quoted in the title of this review comes from “Conga,” one of the megahits by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.  It also describes the high energy feel to On Your Feet!, the latest show at the Aronoff Center for the Arts sponsored by Fifth-Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati presented by Tri-Health. 

On Your Feet! recounts the early career of Gloria Estefan from her early days singing for her family to her joining the Miami Latin Boys to the early successes with the newly christened Miami Sound Machine.  Act II deals with Estafan becomes a superstar, her first World Tour, and the tragic bus accident which interrupted the trajectory of her career.

This is a high energy show full of all of Gloria Estefan’s greatest songs. At its heart, it is a love story between Gloria, played by Christine Prades, and Emilio Estefan, played by Eddie Noel.  Prades is a powerhouse singer and performer.  She channels Gloria Estefan and is dynamic onstage.  She is a triple threat, being able to act, sing, and dance equally well.  She has a touching solo with Eddie Noel that is as poweful as her renditions of “Conga” and “Turn the Beat Around.”

As Emilio Estefan, the driving force behind the success of the Miami Sound Machine, Noel has a charismatic bearing as he guided Gloria through the different stages of his career.  While he has a fine voice and can reach the high notes, there were a few places where that power did not shine forth as it should.

The secondary characters were particularly strong. As Gloria’s mother, Nancy Ticotin delivered a strong performance both vocally and acting.  She has her own number “Mi Terra” in the middle of Act I that was particularly strong.  Ticotin was also able to deliver a wide range of emotions in dealing with her daughter Gloria.

Also strong was Gloria’s grandmother Consuelo, played brilliantly by Debra Cardona.  Cardona provides the comic relief throughout the play.  She acts as a guide to both Gloria and her mother. Cardona became a delightful character who offers sage advice and emotional support when needed.

The rest of the cast does an outstanding job to support the leads and this cast is particularly well adept in dancing.  Apart from the stunning choregraphy (there is one number where the cast does a sort of tap dance with wooden sandals), there is one cast member that deserves great praise: Jeanpaul Medina Solano, who plays the Estefan’s son Nayib, is an oustanding tap dancer.  Every time he would come out to perform, Medina Solano received great applause.

Also noteworthy are the musicians who make up the orchestra which plays all the music.  Oftentimes, the orchestra gets ignored in Broadway musical productions.  However, they were a necessary and integral part of the action of the play.

One problem with the show is that when songs would be sung in Spanish, there was no attempt at translation, which would have helped this reviewer since I don’t understand the language.  Also, the show glosses over important life events (like the birth of Gloria’s son and the death of grandmother Consuelo) that would be nice to have discussed, at least in passing.  Even Gloria Estefan’s recovery from her accident is shortened to a single scene and this seems to undercut the central drama of her story.

Despite these quibbles, On Your Feet! is a show that is fun to watch and explores the life of one of the great singers of the 20th century.  It runs one week, March 19 to March 24.  For those who want to dance in your seat, this is the show for you.  For ticket information, visit the Cincinnati Arts Association website at https://www.cincinnatiarts.org/.