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Broadway musical ‘On Your Feet’ dances into Omaha

March 29, 2019

On Your Feet is a Broadway musical depicting the lives of Cuban-American popstar Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio from their first meeting to her 1991 performance at the American Music Awards. The show came to the Orpheum Theater from February 26 through March 3 and brought with it a storm of Latin pop. The show utilizes Estefan’s own top hits, including “Conga”, “On Your Feet”, “1-2-3″, and “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” as well as original music written exclusively for the production, all played by an on-stage band. 

After being greeted by the voices of Gloria and Emilio Estefan telling you to turn off your phones, the story begins in 1966 Miami with a young Gloria expressing her love of guitar and singing. After a dramatic time lapse, we see Gloria at 17, taking care of her younger sister and father, who is afflicted with multiple sclerosis. After meeting Emilio and performing for his band, the Miami Latin Boys, later to be the Miami Sound Machine, Gloria’s music career takes off at the expense of her mother, who is distrustful of the music industry.  

The show’s title lives up to expectations. Toes were tapping through the show and, at times, the audience clapped to the beat of the familiar songs. The on-stage band got into their music and encouraged the audience to do the same, visibly laughing and dancing in their chairs. Before intermission, as Gloria’s hit single “Conga” is playing, the ensemble dancers got down into the house and danced with the audience members.  

There was, however, several flaws in costuming and make-up. The actress playing Gloria, had to curl her hair in an attempt to recreate Estefan’s unruly 80s-style waves. Unfortunately, the end result ended up looking like her hair had been crimped, not tight enough that it could have been the hair crew was trying to emulate the 80s fad, but not loose enough it really passed for waves. 

As for wardrobe, it was easy to mistake some characters for others. The actors who played Emilio Estefan and Gloria’s father looked strikingly similar and were often dressed about the same. Obviously, this was a cause of confusion.  

A brilliant scene and lighting plan made up for the poor character dress. The backdrop switched between colorful Miami streets, beautiful Havana skies and even achieved realistic animated fireworks. Four moving panels that went floor-to-ceiling rotated and moved around the stage, creating further backdrops and scene divisions between two places. Couches and beds were moved on automated tracks in the stage, but actors would often carry their instruments on with them, though their air-playing was poorly developed and impossible to believe.  

Overall, the show was very enjoyable. There were issues here and there, but the music made up for it all. The cast’s and band’s energy flowed into the audience and made the whole theater move. That energy blended seamlessly with heartbreaking scenes of loss and pain. Even if you aren’t a huge Gloria Estefan fan, even if you don’t know any of her music, you will come out of this show singing and walking to a beat. 

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