On Your Feet!

Book by Alexander Dinelaris, music by Emilio and Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine
Jamie Wilson and Gavin Kalin with Colin Ingram for InThetrem Huner Arnold, Marc David Levine, Eilene Davidson, Iris Smith, Josh Andrews for Kilimanjaro Theatricals, Carlos Candal and Curve
The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth

Philippa Stefani as Gloria Estefan and Company Credit: Johan Persson

With a few notable exceptions, musicals aren’t really my thing and unfortunately On Your Feet! is neither notable nor an exception.

It probably doesn’t help that I was never much of a Este-fan but despite the vivid costuming and fab choreography, it’s all rather one-dimensional.

Despite a backstory of Cuban crisis, USA immigration, a thwarted, broken mother, caring for a sick Vietnam vet father and spearheading American-Latin fusion music, Alexander Dinelaris’s book is somewhat pedestrian and clunky as vignettes back and forth in time fill in the detail between explosions of full ensemble song and dance.

Philippa Stefani is a competent Gloria encompassing coy teenager, trendsetting pop star and determined invalid. A tad pitchy in some of the higher range, she has the moves and charm. George Ioannides carries off the dreamy Emilio, short shorts, mangled English and all with mellifluous tones save for a few duet clashes while Karen Mann is fun and forthright as motivational stalwart gran.

Cramming in all the Emilio and Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine-penned hits—"Dr Beat", "1-2-3", "Conga", "Anything For You" and "Don’t Want To Lose You" included—with a superb live seven-piece band bashing out the Latino beats with a smattering of brass and some ensemble-added bongo-ing and maracas.

Kenneth Posner's dynamic lighting captures the '80s, David Rockwell disappoints with a dull set—sliding partitions and a few bits of furniture—but Olivier and Tony Awards-winner Sergio Trujillo’s choreography is all. Salsa swing, popstar posing, diva dancing and ensemble energy carries an otherwise mundane outing.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell

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