MUSICAL REVIEW: On Your Feet! ★★★
On Your Feet!
The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Monday 3rd - Saturday 8th February 2020
Charting the rise of the Cuban-American singer songwriter and 26-time Grammy winner Gloria Estefan, One Your Feet began its life on the stage in 2015 when it opened in Chicago, and since has gone on to have life on Broadway, The Netherlands, the West End, and now it's latest venture is out on a UK Tour. The production primarily centres around the relationship between Gloria and her soon-to-be husband Emilo Estefan, and whilst many who watch the production will be hit with a wave of nostalgia, this jukebox musical fails to produce enough substance in the text to hold itself together, relying on shoehorning in the musical numbers to stretch the running time.
Starting off with the height of fame before rewinding into a flashback is nothing new to the genre, with Jersey Boys being a prime example of this trait, but here there is a genuine sense of achievement involved when David Rockwell's panelled flats of windows as staging is solely moved via overhead tracks, and combined with Darrel Maloney's projection design which constantly hits the right spot with timing perfection, even if in some cases the text is blurred or mismatched. Olivia Kate Holding is in the spotlight as Young Gloria in this moment and her sweet, angelic voice floats whilst she is being entertained by the locals in Miami, where she loves with her mother, Gloria Fajardo (Madalena Alberto), and Grandmother Consuelo (Karen Mann).
It's not long though before the transition takes place with Holding swapped out with Philippa Stefani as the lead, who captures Gloria throughout perfectly. When she is introduced to Emilo (George Ioannides), there is a spark and playfulness that is a pleasure to witness. Together their voices harmonise well and there is a sense that they manage to capture in the notion of meeting for the first time; it feels incredibly fresh and they both have a flair for the material thrown at them. It's Ioannides who truly shines later in the production though when a duet of 'If I Never got to Tell You' with Alberto that cements their characters turbulent feelings towards eachother for the greater good and health of the one woman they both equally care about the most, at a rather unsteady time for the sensational singer.
The issue that mostly arises from the production though before we reach this point is the sense that the story between our characters hasn't been fleshed out enough and we are simply zipping through a rather varied career from Gloria Estefan; Alexander Dinelaris' book at times feels repetitive when Gloria and Emilo are trying to catch their first big break with 'Conga', but then feels like it then tries to make up some unwanted material when Emilo recounts leaving his parents behind at Madrid Airport as a young child to pursue his dream in Miami.
Overall, On Your Feet is undeniably a perfect night out to get up and dance the night away with a committed and energetic company which will take you back to your dancing days, but slips up on failing to provide substantial material in Gloria's personal life to make us understand the ideas behind some of the most iconic musical numbers of her time.