TR Robertson –You certainly cannot miss with the music of Emilio & Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine wrapped in the story of Emilio and Gloria’s musical rise with a new sound for the recording industry and Gloria’s triumphant return after a horrific accident. This final musical for Moonlight Stage Productions for their 40th season, On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan, is a sure fire hit if the reaction of the full house on a cool Thursday evening is any indication. Described as a jukebox musical, the vibrant, upbeat and colorful musical goes through the story of Gloria’s families exodus from Cuba to a Little Havana neighborhood in Miami, her love of music and a meeting with Emilio Estefan Gomez Jr. and his Miami Latin Boys Band, the struggles she and Emilio had trying to gain acceptance for their music in the mainstream of the American music industry, and their eventual success only to be challenged by a lifechanging, almost tragic occurrence.
On Your Feet! premiered at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago and opened at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway in 2015. The musical is taken from a book by Alexander Dinelaris with the music produced and recorded by Emilio and Gloria to tell their story. It was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Choreography, 7 Outer Critics Circle Awards, 3 Drama League Awards and won a Theatre World Award. A brilliant cast of Moonlight singers and dancers provided almost non-stop performances making this exuberant, up-tempo, energetic musical an enjoyable experience for those in the audience.
Photos by Ken Jacques, Fred Tracey, and Adriana Zunig
The two primary performers, Ariella Kvashny as Gloria and Eduardo Enrikez as Emilio, were superb. Their interaction was at times tender and romantic, at times very funny and both presented amazing portrayals of Gloria and Emilio. Throughout the musical, Ariella sang and danced classic Gloria Estefan songs and dance routines with wonderful interpretations; songs like “Get On Your Feet,” “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “1-2-3”, “Live for Loving You”, “Oye Mi Canto”, “Cuba Libre”, “Conga” and many more. Eduardo had several standout songs, perfect for his “booming baritone” voice, especially on “Don’t Want to Lose You” and “When Someone Comes into Your Life.” Eduardo is an award-winning actor and was in the original West End production of On Your Feet! Ariella is making her Moonlight debut and is a recent graduate from the University of California, Irvine with a BFA in Musical Theatre and an Honors in Acting.
Other standout performances were from Itzel Meza-Ruiz as Little Gloria with beautiful performances of “Cuando Sali de Cuba” and “Tradicion” and Rudy Martinez as Gloria’s father Jose Fajardo. Crissy Guerrero, as Gloria’s mother Gloria Fajardo, presented a wonderful performance as a mother worried about losing her daughter and wondering what her life might have been like if she had had a successful musical career. She sings a moving “Mi Tierra” and “If I Never Got to Tell You.” An audience favorite was Catalina Maynard as Consuelo, Gloria’s grandmother and along with Diego Mendoza playing Nayib, Gloria’s son, and Jeremy, who received a rousing applause from the audience for a standout dance routine he broke into in one of the numbers.
This musical is more than just song and dance. It is the story of two individuals that had a dream and a commitment to do whatever they could to make it come true. Along the way, they would fall in love in 1976, marry in 1978 and this bond would make them work harder to achieve their goals. What this would lead to is a husband and wife team that would garner 26 Grammy Awards, over 100 million in record sales, each of them receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Song Writers of the Year Awards, numerous Cuban-themed restaurants in the Florida area, hotels, a partial ownership in the Miami Dolphins NFL team and much more. Not a bad resume for a group starting out playing for birthday parties and bar mitzvahs with the Miami Latin Boys. Gloria showed fierce determination and strength as she overcame surviving a horrific tour bus crash with a semi-truck in 1990, spinal surgery and two titanium rods inserted in her back, being told she may never walk again and a triumphant return to the stage after months of rehabilitation. This all culminating with a performance, in 1991, at the American Music Awards show, produced by Dick Clark. Moonlights presentation of this event was stunning.
Gloria and Emilio continue to work today, Gloria recently singing and producing a parody, during the 2020 pandemic, of her “Get on Your Feet” song, “Put on Your Mask”. She also produced a video and song filmed at the Estefan’s home on Star Island, Miami, inspired by an idea from her son, Nayib, called “We Need Time.” This video was free to download on her web site.
Moonlight’s One Your Feet! is directed by San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award winner James Vasquez. The fabulous choreography for the show was choreographed by Carlos Mendoza, also winning San Diego Critics Circle Awards. The amazing sounds for the show came from the ten member “Moonlight Sound Machine” (as producing Artistic director Steven Glaudini referred to the orchestra) directed by Music Director and Conductor Lyndon Pugeda.
Other Creative Team Members included Associate Choreographer Laurie Marie Muniz, Lighting Designer Jean-Yves Tessier, Sound Designer Jim Zadai, Stage Manager Stanley D. Cohen, costume Coordinator Felcia Broschart, Projections designed by Blake McCarthy, Properties Coordinator Gabrielle Tillinghast, and many more in the Technical Crew.
On Your Feet! will be on stage at the Moonlight Amphitheatre until October 2nd. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from $17-$59 and can be obtained at www.moonlightstage.com or call 760-724-2110.