Nov 6, 2015
“On Your Feet!” is bringing fun back to Broadway — finally!
Miserable affairs, angsty German teens and sad-sack British royals — in shows like “Thérèse Raquin,” “Spring Awakening” and “King Charles III” — have made the season a dour one. Even the blockbuster “Hamilton” ends on a melancholy note.
So it’s a pleasure to welcome “On Your Feet!,” the rare show that earns its exclamation mark. Inspired by the life and music of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, it literally gets the audience off its seats and into a conga line.
Corny? You bet. This biographical jukebox musical packages every showbiz cliché — rags to riches, tragedy and triumphs — between hits like “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” and “1-2-3.” If you have a weakness for sultry singers in leather chaps and bedazzled toreador pants, so much the better.
Ana Villafañe and Josh Segarra play the Cuban-American couple who at first struggled to sell their Latin-pop crossover — “rice and beans with hamburgers” — to mainstream America. That changed with the 1985 song “Conga.”
After the duo and their band, Miami Sound Machine, played it everywhere they could, from bar mitzvahs to weddings to Shriners conventions, the song became a hit. So did the Estefans.
Sergio Trujillo’s high-energy choreography — a mix of sensuous Latin ballroom and pelvis-busting acrobatics — propels the action, but the show belongs to its cast. Villafañe’s Gloria is sexy in an approachable, likable way, while Segarra’s Emilio is just as hot but also endearingly self-deprecating — half the jokes are at the expense of his thick Spanish accent.
Add a brass-heavy orchestra, which includes actual members of Miami Sound Machine, and you have a hit that will conga all the way to the bank.