Reviewed by Jenny Seymour
This hit musical tells the triumphant life story of Cuban American artists Gloria and Emilio Estefan who, many of you may remember if you’re as old as me (!), rose to fame in the 80s with the Miami Sound Machine.
The show is based entirely on Gloria’s music and I was amazed at how many songs came flooding back to me – from beautiful ballads like “Anything for you” and “Don’t wanna lose you”, to 80s dance classics “Dr. Beat” and Latin crossover smash “Conga”.
Unlike other musicals, such as Mamma Mia, which use the music of one band set to a totally unrelated story, it is great to hear Gloria Estefan’s music used to portray her (initially perhaps) difficult start in life as an immigrant in the U.S. to her amazingly uplifting and inspiring success story.
We first meet Gloria as an innocent girl singing traditional Cuban songs into a tape for her soldier father, then we move onto Emilio and his band at 17 in Miami touring as a Latin act, battling for the US music industry to allow them to sing in English. Finally, we witness them bringing their Latin sound to the wider world.
The show deals with themes of family, identity and the whole experience of immigrants, but these are dealt with lightly. This is a show that lets the music do all the talking!
The central performances were all strong. Francesca Lara Gordon played Gloria with some reserve in the first half, letting her shine ever brighter as her career evolved and as she grew as an artist. Emilio was played by George Ioannides with great charisma and charm. The chemistry between the leads is romantic and believable, supporting one of the most memorable scenes where Emilio declares his love for Gloria amidst soft lantern light during 4th July fireworks.
Kudos must be given to the lighting team who create a wonderful Latin atmosphere through the show, using a colour pallet that would be equally at home in a Havana nightclub, Miami street scene or an 80s dance video! Sets are created by projected image and colour, which are suggestive rather than literal.
The heart of the show, though, is the live Latin percussion and brass band and the exceptional ensemble of Latin dancers, who electrify almost every major scene. Despina Violari particularly stood out amongst a group of dancers that had great energy rhythm and control.
The show ended on what must have been Gloria’s personal career highlight – her performance of “Coming out of the Dark” at the American Music Awards. This was a hugely poignant moment – her return to the world stage after her life-threatening crash and spinal surgery – and a moment of resounding triumph as she sings with a new maturity, passion and confidence. Absolutely stunning!
Just as we are left in awe at Gloria the diva, the mood shifted into a more euphoric, celebratory place and we were ALL “on our feet” and salsa dancing as a fitting finale to this fabulous show. We left the theatre feeling like we’d been to a fantastic party and ready to revive some Gloria tunes on our Spotify to keep the good times going. In fact, we are incredibly lucky in Sheffield to have Cubana Latin bar and restaurant just a short walk from the Lyceum Theatre to continue the after party!!! We didn’t want to stop dancing!
I cannot recommend this show highly enough to anyone who loves music, dancing and a good old-fashioned love story! I went with my 10-year-old who enjoyed it every bit as much as me – the music translates so easily across the generations and because the show puts family values at its core, it was very special to be able to share that! Whatever you do or don’t know about Gloria already, do try to see this show – it will have you “on your feet”!
This has to be one of the best new musicals for some time. Fabulous family musical that will have you all “On your feet”! Download your Gloria music set and grab yourself a ticket while you can!
[Please also note: If you park in the local Q Park car park, remember to claim your 1 hour FREE ticket from one of the members of the theatre staff before you leave.]
Tickets cost from £15 (booking fees may apply).
On Your Feet! is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 15-19 October 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000