Let Your Body Feel the Heat! “On Your Feet” Brings Cuban Sizzle to Westchester Broadway Theater

Published: Tuesday, July 2, 2019 By: BARBARA SOLOMON JOSSELSOHN Source: Scarsdale 10583

One of many musical biopics to hit the Broadway stage in recent years, “On Your Feet” tells the story of singer-songwriters Gloria and Emilio Estefan, the husband-and-wife team whose Cuban-fusion sound made them international superstars. Both Cuban immigrants, the two met in Miami when Emilio’s early musical group, the Miami Latin Boys, went searching for a female voice to come on board.

While love and talent are major factors in the long-lasting success of their marriage and careers, immigration and prejudice are major themes in their lives as well. The two had to battle attempts to pigeonhole their music and to convince powerful music executives that their sound would appeal to an English-speaking audience. Theirs is a story of perseverance against bigotry – and in this way, feels even more relevant today than it did when it opened on Broadway in 2015.

It’s a story that makes good theater, so it’s no wonder that “On your Feet” won high acclaim on Broadway, and that WBT has chosen to revive this summer. The musical started on its Broadway journey in 2012, when the Estefans, who’d been approached a few times about dramatizing their story, decided to team up with the Nederlander organization. A condition of the deal was that the husband-and-wife duo would retain creative control over the show – and they bravely chose to include personal and painful moments from their lives. As the story unfolds on stage, we learn about Gloria’s mother, who initially tried to dissuade her from going into the music business; her spunky grandmother, who supported her singing 100 percent; and her father, a Vietnam veteran who suffered greatly from multiple sclerosis. The musical also depicts the horrific highway accident that nearly cost Gloria her life, as well as her long, difficult recovery and ultimate return to the stage. 

What’s evident throughout this couple’s story is the transcendent power of music – and music most definitely takes center stage in WBT’s current production. As Gloria, Maria Bilbao has a strong and extremely appealing voice, whether she’s singing ballads like “Anything for You” or spirited dance numbers such as “Conga,” “1,2,3” and “Get on Your Feet.” Jose Luaces is winningly fiery as Emilio.

The secondary actors – notably Byron St. Cyr as Gloria’s father, Karmine Alers as her mother, and Sandy Rosenberg as her grandmother – also deliver strong acting and singing performances, And the sheer energy and stamina of the ensemble as they glide, leap, and twirl from number to number will leave you breathless. The production’s rendition of “Coming out of the Dark,” which Gloria sang at the American Music Awards after recovering from her accident, is a celebration for both the characters and the audience. 

“On Your Feet” was a hit on Broadway, winning seven Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, three Drama League Award nominations, and a Tony Award nomination for Best Choreography. It’s a tribute to the enduring appeal of the Estefans and their music that WBT has brought this joyous show to its stage this summer