Produced by: Broadway San Jose, a Nederlander Presentation
Directed by: Jerry Mitchell
Choreographed by: Sergio Trujillo
Music direction by: Clay Ostwald
When: October 9–14, 2018
Where: San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 South Almaden Boulevard, San Jose
Tickets: For singler tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.com; visit the City National Civic Box Office, 150 West San Carlos Street, San Jose; or call 800-982-2787. Group orders of 10 or more may be placed by calling 669-242-8559.
as road show comes to San Jose CPA
There was a time when Cuba was known for three things: cigars, Ricky Ricardo and the Bay of Pigs. But by the 1980s, infectious Cuban rhythms and salsa dance music had added a fourth. Gloria Estefan and husband Emilio contributed greatly to the global popularization of Cuban and salsa music, and "On Your Feet!" is based on their life story.
Broadway San Jose brought in the musical's first Broadway road show, which opened on Tuesday and runs through Sunday at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. The production reflects all the passion, drive and criss-cross rhythms that came from the children of Cuban immigrants, who were trying to make better lives for themselves in Miami, just 300 miles from their parents' homeland.
Gloria's father, Jose Fajardo (Eddie Noel), serves in Vietnam, where his young daughter sends him tapes of her singing. He knows she will be a star one day. But on coming home he contracts multiple sclerosis, and Gloria has to look after him while her mother goes out to work.
Grandma Consuelo (a wonderful Alma Cuervo) also knows that Gloria has talent and pushes her to audition for Emilio's band, the Miami Latin Boys. Emilio is played by Ektor Rivera with just a hint of Ricky Ricardo's word-mangling humor, and a good line in diatribes de Espanol (or possibly Spanglish) when he gets particularly worked up. But Rivera has a great singing voice too, which he puts to good use. He is the one who molds Gloria and the Miami Latin Boys into a successful singing and dancing act that starts to make waves with the Latin population of Miami, as he changes its name to the Miami Sound Machine.
Gloria is played by Christie Prades, herself Cuban-American, and she bears a strong resemblance to Estefan in both looks and voice. Close your eyes and you could be back in the '80s at a Gloria Estefan concert.
So the Miami Sound Machine is a hit with the Latin population, but Emilio wants more. He thinks their music belongs to everyone, so — after seven successful Latin albums — he produces an eighth, in English. But the record company exec (Devon Goffman) won't promote it, saying that crossover albums never work. Undeterred, Emilio spends his (and the band's) own money to self-promote the single "Conga" with all the local DJs and radio stations. His plan nearly fails, until he realizes that, being a dance song, he needs to take the single to the dance clubs. Bingo. Suddenly all the radio listeners want to hear the song they heard in the club last night and the single is a crossover hit.
I remember my sister in Wimbledon, England, in the late '80s, saying she was taking dance classes in salsa. I'd never heard of it, but clearly Gloria Estefan's worldwide touring was taking her music and dance even to the leafy suburbs of London. But her success comes at a price. She insists on taking sister Rebecca on tour with her, estranging her mother, Gloria senior, played by Nancy Ticotin.
Gloria senior is clearly jealous of her daughter's success. Because she too was a singer, back in Cuba, and a good one at that. Ticotin takes us back to old Cuba and shows us the passion and rhythms of Cuba's Spanish-African roots. She had an opportunity to go to Los Angeles to sing but her father forbade it, so she resents Gloria junior's success.
Just when Gloria and Emilio and the Miami Sound Machine seem to be at the top of their game, disaster strikes. Their tour bus collides with a semi in the snow and Gloria is badly injured, breaking a vertebra in her back. They don't know if she will ever walk again. But she's tough, and after a difficult operation and nearly a year of physical therapy she is able to perform at Dick Clark's American Music Awards, stealing the show.
Shout outs to Ana-Sofia Rodriguez as little Gloria, and especially to Jordan Vergara, who has been dancing since the age of 4. Wonderful choreography by Tony Nominee and Olivier Award Winner Sergio Trujillo, and costumes by Emilio Sosa. The band — of course — was fantastic, led by music director Clay Ostwald. Many of the musicians are also members of Miami Sound Machine.
If you like salsa rhythms, the sound of timbales and a couple of hours tapping your feet, then this is the show for you.
Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org