Review of “On Your Feet!” at The Muny

    The Muny is mounting only five shows this summer instead of the usual seven, but five new productions in six weeks is a remarkable undertaking at any time, much less during a pandemic.

    The fourth of the five shows is a first for The Muny: On Your Feet!

    It’s based on the life and music of Gloria and Emilio Estefan. The book by Alexander Dinelar integrates music produced and recorded by the couple and their band, Miami Sound Machine.

    The music is well known and much loved. Between them, the Estefans have won 26 Grammys. Their life story also is well known. The first act begins with Gloria’s early life in Miami, where her family moved after the Cuban revolution The main subjects in the first act are Gloria’s long-developing romance with Emilio, and their shared battle to win the record industry’s acceptance for the Cuban-fusion pop music they originated.

    The drama ratchets up in the second act, which follows Gloria Estefan’s arduous road to recovery after the bus accident that nearly cost her both her life and her career.

    The Muny’s production has an excellent cast and is filled with energy thanks to Maggie Burrows’ direction, William Carlos Angulo’s choreography, and Lon Hoyt’s musical direction.

    Arianna Rosario has star quality as Gloria. Omar Lopez-Cepero gives Emilio the drive required to succeed against prejudice and disbelief. Natascia Diaz is a daunting adversary as Gloria’s mother, who opposes her daughter’s choice of career, perhaps because her own show business aspirations were thwarted by her father.

    Gloria’s support within her family comes from her grandmother, Consuelo. She is a model of caring and warmth in the performance by Alma Cuervo, who originated the part on Broadway.

    Lee Zarrett is convincing as an exemplar of recording industry skepticism. Impressive work in youthful roles comes from Isabella Iannelli as Little Gloria and Jordan Vergara as Young Emilio and others.

    Tim Mackabee’s scenic design and Kate Ducey’s video design combine to represent the numerous settings. Leon Dobkowski’s costumes even become a part of the scenery when they are hanging from clothes lines.

    The score includes hits such as “Coming Out of the Dark,” “Conga,” “1-2-3,” “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” and the number that provides the show’s title, “Get on Your Feet.” The performances at The Muny make that directive hard to resist.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by Phillip Hamer