The audience were not saying “On your bike!” to On Your Feet! In fact, the entire audience were on their feet at the end of the show, swaying to the infectious Latin rhythms. Monday night in Wimbledon was not blue. The theatre was packed with people out to enjoy themselves, and the show did not let them down.
Musicals about the life and hard times of a famous singer, struggling for recognition and then paying the price of fame, are not a rarity and are often very popular, the one about Tina Turner being a prime example. This one features the partnership between Gloria, who was an infant when her parents brought her from Cuba following the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship by Fidel Castro, and Emilio, who was a teenager when his family fled to the United States in a later wave of refugees from the Communist regime. The Cuban exiles settled mainly in Miami, where Latin music flourished and the clubs resounded to the beat of salsa, rumba and cha-cha-cha. Emilio led a popular combo called the Miami Latin Boys, but could they, with the addition of Gloria as their singer and with a change of name to the Miami Sound Machine, break into the world of American pop music beyond their Hispanic base?
They do indeed, after a struggle, achieve fame and fortune. Gloria has to overcome her mother’s opposition to her becoming a professional musician at all (a “gipsy” way of life), but is encouraged and abetted by her grandmother – a nice comic turn by Karen Mann. In truth, however, the storyline serves most of all as a line on which to hang a succession of amazing song-and-dance routines in which the Ensemble and the Band really steal the show. The dancers perform astonishing feats of agility and athleticism, and how they managed to change into a different costume for every dance routine, in the short time available, beats me! The musicians are tremendous. They play their hearts out while producing a really authentic Latin sound, with horns and percussion pulsating along with ace guitar and keyboards.
These set-pieces, filling the stage with colourful costumes, exuberant choreography, and driving rhythms are what really stand out in this unusually long show. You get your money’s worth, all right!
- Music by Emilio and Gloria Estefan
- Book by Alex Dinelaris
- Directed by Jerry Mitchell
- Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo
- Cast includes: Philippa Stefani and George Ioannides
- New Wimbledon Theater
- Until 29 February 2020