Music and Lyrics: Gloria and Emilio Estefan
Reviewer: Emily Garside
The fact that Gloria and Emilio Estefan are experts at creating an infectious pop hit is no secret, and it is an element showcased in this musical, which tells the story of Estefan’s life and career. That the songs are excellent pop numbers is clear, however perfect pop music does not always translate to a strong musical theatre recording, as many a flop ‘jukebox musical’ has shown. When they are good, such musicals can be truly excellent, in this case the calibre of the Estefan’s music allows this recording to rise to the top of the ever growing jukebox pile. The dramatic, energetic and infectious music of Gloria Estefan makes for an entertaining and energising recording.
The songs, whether familiar (as they will be to many) or new (as they may be to younger audiences) are expertly crafted pieces of pop. That is no secret given the success and longevity of Gloria Estefan’s career, documented by this the story of at least some of her life and career. The talented cast, featuring Ana Fillfane as Gloria and Josh Segarra as Emilio perform the songs with vibrancy often giving a whole new twist to the familiar music. Singing as Gloria Estefan herself is an intimidating prospect but one which Fillfane more than matches and the live recording of this production captures and showcases elements of a truly talented singer. As ever with this sort of musical, there will be fans who critically compare her performance to Estefan herself, but Fillfane And Segarra both strike a balance between enough imitation to bring their characters to life, and maintaining their own musical and dramatic interpretation of the music appropriate to the story.
The story takes in elements of Estefan’s early life, as well as the highs and lows of her career as one of the most successful female recording artists in the world. There is, as expected in this style of musical, a mix of narrative songs and performance-within a performance as Gloria takes to the stage within the musical. These are by far the stronger in the recording, as the songs are left to do what they were first written to do- be pop songs performed for an audience. Particular highlights include the title track Get on Your Feet and penultimate number Coming out of the Dark. The rest of the music is used to good purpose, in particular the romantic numbers used to tell the story of Gloria and Emillio’s relationship, and Estefan has such an extensive repertoire that there were clearly enough songs for every emotional occasion, and yet these performance pieces remain the true highlights.
The live recording aspect is something of a double edged sword. On one hand it rounds out the story, and ties together what otherwise would sound only like a collection of Estefan’s greatest hits with orchestral arrangements behind them. However there will be those who prefer to simply hear the music, particularly if they plan to see the show live. While at times entertaining- the script is clearly witty as well as at times emotional- the dialogue becomes distracting and the music is strong enough to speak for itself.
On Your Feet! Is a well crafted musical which draws on a back catalogue of first-rate pop music, crafted into an engaging musical biography. The live recording although slightly distracting at times, does showcase the talented cast and musicians and conveys the pure energy and enthusiasm of this musical cast.