On Your Feet: punches a hole through the roof

By Yoan Dzhugdanov

Adapted from a book by Alexander Dinelaris, directed by two-time Tony award-winner Jerry Mitchell, and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet tells the true love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, charting their journey from its humble origins in Cuba to the streets of Miami where they soon achieve international stardom. The show is essentially a run-of-the-mill ‘rags to riches’ story that is intelligently steeped in socio-political significance through its exploration of immigration and cultural assimilation.

The show breezes through Gloria’s upbringing in Cuba during the revolution where we are introduced to her ever so slightly dysfunctional but overly charismatic family, namely her extremely supportive Grandmother, eccentrically portrayed by Karen Mann. Gloria’s (Philippa Stefani) meeting of Emilio (played on the night by Sharif Afifi) is also whizzed through, as the pair’s instant chemistry and shared passion for music and fame see them speed off to the US to form Miami Sound Machine. The performance depicts their battle against American record labels who insist on stripping away their identity, follows their rapid international success and eventually showcases the near-death bus crash experience that left Gloria prospectively paralysed. However, the show maintains a fast pace to such an extent that one cannot help but feel that the script could have given more time to accommodate certain moments of exposition that felt rather under-developed. Some moments feel rushed and fall flat for the sake of allowing a slew of musical numbers to be performed instead, with the show becoming perhaps too indulged in churning out Estefan’s greatest hits.

Despite these minor flaws, the musical numbers and choreography are sheer moments of power and energy. Trujillo’s choreography is so full of vitality, athleticism, vibrancy and never faltering in pace. This is all brilliantly complimented by the nuanced and dazzling lighting, alongside the extremely tight live band who effortlessly sustain the flawless sound and vibe of Miami Sound Machine throughout.

Last, but certainly not least, the cast of On Your Feet has delivered one of the most energetic and charismatic performances. Phillipa Stefani shines as Gloria Estefan. The Kent local devours every moment, delivering an outstanding and varied performance in moments of comedic light-heartedness, romantic intimacy, and even tragedy. She handles each musical number with flawless energy and technical precision. The chemistry between her and Sharif Afifi, makes the entirety of the show feels incredibly alive and genuine. The work that the cast has done is very noticeable in the way they act, dance, and sing. They become one homogenous group that has performed incredibly well, like a well-oiled sound machine.

This show has delivered one of the most refreshing performances, filled with contagious energy and joy.

Images courtesy of KentOnline

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