Reviewed by Helen Wyatt
On Your Feet is the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, the Cuban-American singer-songwriter, told through Gloria and the Miami Sound Machines songs. On Your Feet comes to Plymouth as part of a UK tour, having spent two years on Broadway, with over 700 shows.
Gloria, played by Philippa Stefani, is a young girl supporting her mother and caring for her father and sister, but dreaming of a musical career. Gloria is painfully shy and her mother is controlling, but once she meets Emilio, played by George Loannides, she falls head over heels in love and decides to join his band, who perform Latin music. Gloria mixes things up and the newly named Miami Sound Machine go from strength to strength, but not without their adversity of having to try and break into the Western music scene at a time when Latin music wasn’t popular.
From the get go, this show is really in your face, with bright colours and loud sounds reflective of the Cuban/Latin culture which is Gloria and Emilio’s heritage. However, despite the loudness, there are equally several moments of calm and quiet, with sensitive performances from the cast to give huge variety, and demonstrating their versatility.
Philippa’s performance as Gloria was down to earth and she connected beautifully with the audience. Her vocals were amazing and really brought the house down. Her connection with George as Emilio was electric, and you could truly believe the blossoming love story they portrayed. Philippa’s “Gloria” was spot on, capturing her voice and personality beautifully.
The story was not massively deep, however I am not sure it was ever intended to – yes, we are taken through the Estefan’s crash in their tour bus and some of the fallout from that, but it is brief in comparison to other elements. You very much need to like Gloria’s songs to enjoy this show, as the show is packed with them; from Get On Your Feet (as you would expect!), to Rhythm Is Gonna Get You and everything in between. There are slow numbers, but mostly fast paced fun numbers with catchy Cuban rhythms, performed by a live orchestra. The cast and ensemble danced with gusto, showing us tight turns and beautiful lines, all working together as a great team.
There were notable performances from Madalena Alberto as Gloria’s controlling but loving mother, and Karen Mann as Gloria’s grandmother, Consuelo. Karen really brought the comic relief to the show, giving us lots of laughs alongside the music.
You have to be ready to pick up visual cues to understand some of the story, such as Gloria’s father being both sick in bed and back singing with her as his younger self, and some of the sequencing after Gloria’s accident was a little confusing as to the relevance, but all in all this was a hugely enjoyable, toe-tapping show.
The cast tried their best to get the audience on their feet before the end of the first half, however most of us weren’t quite ready to “Get on Our Feet” – they managed it at the end though, with most of us standing to dance and clap along to the raucous and fun finale.
You will find when you visit Plymouth’s Theatre Royal that you are given a warm welcome. It is a bright and airy theatre which not only shows plays, musicals and other productions, but also shows local artist’s work. There is ample local parking within easy reach of the theatre and you can grab a quick bite to eat into the cafe before the show or have a more leisurely meal in the restaurant.
I would highly recommend this show and say that it is family friendly, other than the later finish time (10pm), and the occasional mild swear word – my daughters aged 9 and 12 very much enjoyed the show with me. In fact, my 12-year-old is a new fan of Gloria’s and said the show was the best 3 hours of her life!
Tickets cost from £16.50 to £49.50 (booking fees may apply).
On Your Feet! is at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth from 9-14 September 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.theatreroyal.com or call the box office on 01752 267222.
Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, PL1 2TR | 01752 267222