On Your Feet! on tour at Capital One Hall is a jukebox musical that celebrates the life and music of Gloria Estefan. With hits like “Conga” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine brought a unique sound to the music scene, combining funk and pop with salsero and bolero beats. Gloria is credited with being one of the first Latina artists to break through into the English-speaking American and international markets after her success in Latin America.
The show opens with Emilio Estefan meeting Gloria as an up-and-coming singer in Miami and traces her trajectory as she grows to headline the Miami Sound Machine band and, eventually, rise to superstar status. On Your Feet! showcases Estefan’s hits with a talented cast and ensemble.
However, due to what seemed to be issues with the sound mixing on opening night, a great deal of that powerful musicality and immersion was lost. Mics were inconsistent in volume. The sound of the live band’s instruments was unbalanced and loud enough to draw comments from the audience in my vicinity. This technical issue seemed to have been improved, somewhat, after the intermission.
Lauren Danielle Horgan (understudying Gaby Albo) does an excellent job as Gloria, and effectively carries Gloria’s burdens as a star who has seen challenges at every turn and found success. Although her voice does not quite have Gloria’s resonance, she reflects Gloria’s strength and energy very well, with exceptional chemistry in scenes with Francisca Tapia, playing Gloria’s mother. It is not very often one can see the hurt, love, and resentment of a mother and daughter so tenderly displayed in a musical.
To her additional credit, Tapia steals the show in a flashback scene as a young singer in Cuba, delivering the strongest solo of the performance with “Mi Tierra.” This scene also was the first moment where director Luis Salgado’s choreography stood out, as this production’s main success is how it introduced and blended salsa to a musical theater audience.
Salsa is similar to ballroom dancing and can be wonderful to watch when a small number of people perform the partnered twists and turns. In musical theater, with a large ensemble, salsa doesn’t really accommodate the constant face-out positioning audiences would expect. In “Mi Tierra” and in “Cuba Libre,” Salgado forgoes the traditional musical theater expectation of an audience watching dancers perform. Instead, the dancers invite the audience with a vibe and rhythm that, at least, gets them tapping their armrests. Salsa has that effect on a dance floor, inviting audiences to join in, even if they’re not familiar with the steps. Salgado also directed the premiere of On Your Feet! en español in 2022 at GALA Hispanic Theater.
The book by Alexander Dinelaris Jr., who won an Academy Award for Birdman, works fairly well, with quips and lines, in both English and Spanish, that find a nice balance between cliche and poignant.
On Your Feet! is playing at Capital One Hall for just one weekend. For audiences who know and love Gloria’s music, and are looking for a nostalgic homage to her work, this show is worth catching. Hopefully, the technical issues will be resolved in future performances.
Running Time: Two and a half hours, plus a 20-minute intermission.
On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan plays through April 23, 2023, at Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons, VA. Tickets (starting at $63.50) are available online.
The cast and creative credits for the national tour of On Your Feet! are online here.
On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan
Directed and Choreographed by Luis Salgado
Featuring Music Produced and Recorded by Emilio & Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine
With: Gaby Albo as Gloria Estefan, Samuel Garnica as Emilio Estefan, Francisa Tapia as Gloria Fajardo; Max Cervantes as José Fajardo, Adela Romero as Consuelo, Lauren Danielle Horgan as Rebecca, Katie McCollum as Young Gloria, Javier Ivan as Nayib and Augusto Guardado as Phil.
Ensemble: Facundo, Agustín, Miguel Flores, Arquímides González, Emilee Hassanzadeh, Marielisa Lugo, Madelin Marchant, Ralphie Rivera de Jesús, Angeliz M. Rosado Ramos, Kristen Tarragó, Sebastian Treviño, Zaiedd Vélez, Marina Vidal.
Scenic Design — Clifton Chadick
Lighting Design — Ryan J. O’Gara
Costume Design — Jeannette Christensen
Projection Design — Patrick W. Lord
Sound Design — Diego Garzón
Casting — Kate Lumpkin Casting
Music Direction — Daniel Alejandro Gutierrez
Music Supervision — Clay Ostwald
Music, Lyrics and Orchestrations by Emilio and Gloria Estefan
Arrangements — Lon Hoyt
Additional Orchestrations and Arrangements — Jorge Casas, Clay Ostwald, and Oscar Hernández
‘On Your Feet!’ launches national tour full of DC-grown talent (news story, June 4, 2022)
Gloria Estefan talks ‘On Your Feet! en español’: A story of love, family, and the American dream (interview by Nicole Hertvik, May 7, 2022)