On Your Feet! (UK Tour): Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Reviewed 20th January 2020
Heading straight out on tour having had a successful run at the London’s Coliseum Theatre On Your Feet! is the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan. Inspired by the true love story of Emilio and Gloria, On Your Feet! charts their journey from its origins in Cuba, to the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom. Bursting with some of the most iconic pop songs such as ‘Rhythm Is Gonna Get You’, ‘Conga’, ‘Get On Your Feet’, ‘Don’t Want To Lose You Now’ and ‘1-2-3’ this fun musical is directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman).
From the outset the show has a carnival, party feel. The samba and tango inspired choreography by Sergio Trujillo is executed perfectly by the incredibly talented cast members. This sharp choreography is full of Latin flare, energy and passion and the dances alone help to transport the audience to Cuba and take you on Gloria’s journey. The exquisite costumes by Emilio Sosa are bright, colourful and beautifully constructed. Vibrant lighting by Kenneth Posner ensures that the party spirit is in full swing. The brightly coloured lighting is reflective of the Latino, carnival vibe and works brilliantly for this production.
Philippa Stefani (alternate Gloria during the show’s London run) is every inch the star as she leads this fun, uplifting musical. She has the passion, Latino-sass and emotion needed to tell Gloria’s story. Vocally, Philippa excels but it is her acting and commitment to the character that truly draws the audience in. The song ‘Wrapped’ is beautifully choreographed and the storytelling by each character, in particular Gloria and her father Jose, is excellent. During this performance Emilio Estefan was played superbly by Sharif Afifi. The chemistry between the two main characters is convincing and their vocals blend excellently together. Madalena Alberto wows the audience during her show stopping number ‘Mi Tierra’ and shows amazing emotion during the moving song ‘If I Never Got To Tell You’. Karen Mann’s comic timing and humour is brilliant as Consuelo and she is definitely a crowd favourite. Elia Lo Tauro’s ‘When Someone Comes Into Your Life’ is simply stunning, it is just a shame that he does not feature more heavily in the show as his vocals are outstanding. All of the cast are superb! No moments are lost onstage and the enthusiasm and commitment shown by each cast member is excellent.
Even if you are not that familiar with Gloria Estefan’s work there are certain songs such as ‘Dr. Beat‘ and ‘Conga‘ that almost everyone will recognise. These classic favourites are performed brilliantly, particularly ‘Conga‘ which makes the audience feel like they actually are at a Gloria concert. Unlike many jukebox or biographical musicals the songs in On Your Feet! the songs are used to tell the story, rather than just to accompany it. The lyrics especially are fundamental to the story and allow the audience to understand Gloria Estefan better. Not to mention the fact that the music is so upbeat and fun! By the end of the show the entire audience are tapping their toes and are certainly ready to get on their feet!
Thankfully, On Your Feet! remains largely unchanged from its London premiere and demonstrates what great quality UK tours are – truly bringing the best of the West End to regional theatres and making theatre more accessible for many. Given the fantastic, vibrant lighting; Latino choreography and sparkling costumes this musical is a feast for the eyes as much as for the ears. Enjoy heading out to the carnival conga and getting on your feet to dance with Gloria whilst On Your Feet! is touring the UK.
Photo Credit: Johan Persson