Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
On Your Feet!, the musical story of the rise to stardom of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, enjoyed a moderate success on Broadway and is currently on tour and on the boards at the newly renovated SHN Golden Gate Theatre. Sadly, it falls closer to the bottom of that spectrum than the top. Despite a tight, top-notch band, a troupe of talented dancers with explosive moves, and the infectious Latin rhythms they perform, the tired story and paper-thin characters are the wallflowers of this dance party.
On Your Feet! begins in 1990 (just prior to the tragic accident that will occupy much of act two), then quickly flashes back to Gloria's childhood in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, where her mother (once a promising young singer in Cuba) pushes young Gloria toward a career in psychology, while Abuela Consuelo encourages her granddaughter to follow her dreams. Gloria Fajardo soon meets Emilio Estefan, leader of the band Miami Latin Boys, taking the first step to stardomand name changes for both Gloria and the band.
The band runs into the usual tropes of a musical rise to stardom: the family reluctant to have a child competing in the cutthroat world of music, the record label that just can't catch the vision of the bandleader, the travails of life on the road, and the breakthrough hit that proves everybody else wrong. We know where it's all going, but we have to slog through a couple of hours of meager narrative before our heroine ends up back on top.
Even though those two hours are filled with a handful of recognizable hits and energetic dance numbers (choreographed by Sergio Trujillo), I noticed very few toes tapping along, and when the finale brings the cast out into the aisles, only a handful of audience members felt inspired to get on their feet.
The cast is likable enough, especially Alma Cuervo as Abuela Consuelo, but the vocals from the two leadsMauricio Martinez as Emilio and Christie Prades as Glorialack the soulfulness and passion the roles require. Prades' tone lacks a certain distinctiveness, and she occasionally flatted some of the notes at the performance I saw.
However, the theatre itself is looking great. After more than a year of remodeling, there is a whole new color palette, upgraded HVAC systems, plush new carpet andperhaps most important for audiencesupgraded and expanded rest rooms, including a doubling of the facilities for women, and the addition of gender-neutral facilities.
Let's hope the next show at the SHN Golden Gate, Waitress, does a better job of engaging its audience on an emotional level.
On Your Feet!, through October 7, 2018, at SHN's Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market Street, San Francisco CA. Tickets range from $55 -$246, and are available by calling the box office at 888-746-1799 or by visiting SHNSF.com. For more information on the tour, visit onyourfeetmusical.com/tour/.