Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

On Your Feet!
National Tour
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of The Humans

Sergio Trujillo's choreography electrifies On Your Feet!, now on tour in the Opera House at Washington's Kennedy Center. When the cast isn't dancing, the production tends to slow down.

Lovers of the songs of Gloria Estefan, her husband Emilio, and their band Miami Sound Machine will be in heaven, but as a musical On Your Feet! has a problem similar to Motown the Musical: it's difficult to dramatize the non-musical scenes. Alexander Dinelaris' book is frequently clumsy as it sets the stage ("It's a great day here in Miami," says a radio announcer, so the audience knows where the scene is taking place) or provides exposition (identifying Emilio on his first entrance with "You play music with the Miami Latin Boys").

The performance begins with bursts of light into the audience and the full orchestra on the stage, fronted by the tireless Gloria Estefan (Arianna Rosario, in for Christie Prades and doing a solid job). Soon it drifts into Gloria's memories of herself as a guitar-playing child (Carmen Sanchez or Amaris Sanchez), sending cassette tapes of her songs to her father (Jason Martínez), a Cuban émigré by then serving in Vietnam.

Gloria is studying to be a psychologist when she meets Emilio Estefan (suave Mauricio Martínez), another Cuban émigré. Her mother (Nancy Ticotin), once a singer herself, and grandmother (the sublime Alma Cuervo, fiercely loving and loyal) push the shy teenager to perform (also from the book: "You don't like the spotlight, but that's where you have to be"). With Gloria in front, the Boys—soon to be renamed Miami Sound Machine—succeed in Spanish-speaking markets before attempting to break into the English-language pop scene. (Emilio tells a skeptical recording executive, "This is what an American looks like," to audience applause.) One bar mitzvah and quinceañera at a time, through visits to individual radio stations, they hit big with the exultant "Conga." Then comes international success, a bus accident that almost ends Gloria's career, and ultimate triumph.

Director Jerry Mitchell keeps things moving forward, but Trujillo's dances are the rocket fuel that propels the production, backed by an orchestra that features members of Miami Sound Machine. A large cast of hot bodies in constant motion, well costumed by Emilio Sosa on David Rockwell's modular set and lit in tropical colors by Kenneth Posner, keeps the momentum up through a finale that incorporates songs not heard during the performance.

Kennedy Center
On Your Feet!
January 9th - January 28th, 2018
Book by Alexander Dinelaris
Featuring music produced and recorded by Emilio & Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine
Emilio: Mauricio Martínez
Nayib (at select performances): Kevin Tellez, Jordan Vergara
Gloria: Christie Prades
Little Gloria (at select performances): Amaris Sanchez, Carmen Sanchez
José Fajardo: Jason Martinez
Gloria Fajardo: Nancy Ticotin
Consuelo: Alma Cuervo
Rebecca: Claudia Yanez
Kiki: Adriel Flete
Marquito: Danny Burgos
Kenny: Hector Maisonet
Phil: David Goffman
Guitarristas: David Baida, Danny Burgos, Omar Lopez-Cepero
Big Paquito: David Baida
American DJ: Omar Lopez-Cepero
Latin DJ: David Baida
Chris: Danny Burgos
Jeremy (at select performances): Kevin Tellez, Jordan Vergara
Warren: Omar Lopez-Cepero
Young Emilio (at select performances): Kevin Tellez, Jordan Vergara
Antonio: David Baita
Nena: Claudia Mulet
Dr. Neuwirth: Devin Goffman
Robin: Natalie Caruncho
Rachel: Arianna Rosario
Marcello: Omar Lopez-Cepero
Lucia: Karmine Alers
Amelia: Claudia Mulet
Ensemble: Karmine Alers, David Baida, Danny Burgos, Sam J. Cahn, Natalie Caruncho, Sarita Colón, Adriel Flete, Devon Goffman, Omar Lopez-Cepero, Hector Maisonet, Claudia Mulet, Jeremey Adam Rey, Joseph Rivera, Maria Rodriguez, Arianna Rosario, Shani Talmor, Claudia Yanez
Directed by Jerry Mitchell
Choreography by Sergio Trujillo
Opera House, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or
For more information on the tour, visit