Rhythm is gonna get you as the delightfully entertaining, joyful, inspirational, and timely 2015 musical “On Your Feet!,” chronicling the loving marriage and groundbreaking musical partnership of Grammy winners Emilio and Gloria Estefan, receives its regional premiere March 5-10 at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.
>> RELATED: 9 performances you don’t want to miss in March
This energetic showcase, Tony-nominated for Sergio Trujillo’s fantastic choreography and featuring a book by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Alexander Dinelaris (“Birdman”), spotlights Cuban-born Emilio and Gloria from their first meeting at a Miami church in the 1970s through their signature collaboration in the 1980s as part of Miami Sound Machine. With Gloria as lead singer/songwriter and Emilio as producer, the hit-making band reshaped pop music, but Gloria proved equally successful as a solo artist, selling 115 million records worldwide. The musical also takes a poignant look at Gloria’s near-fatal 1990 tour bus accident, which led to a triumphant comeback a year later with her “Into the Light” CD bolstered by the pop/gospel anthem “Coming Out of the Dark.”
>> LOOKING AHEAD: ‘Spongebob,’ ‘Cats,’ ‘Rent,’ ‘Color Purple’ and more coming to Dayton
“Gloria and Emilio are some of the most natural, kindest people you’ll ever meet,” said Christie Prades, a Cuban-American Miami native who portrays Gloria and also covered the role on Broadway. “In portraying her, Gloria told me just to be myself. She didn’t want the performance to be a carbon copy of her. She wanted the performance to be authentic, especially the backstory, but she also wanted me to just live in the role and not try to mimic her. Hearing her say that made me feel more comfortable to be in my own skin, which made it easier to dive into who she is on a human level. I actually grew up in the same neighborhood as Gloria. I feel spoiled to portray someone so close to the person I am, to be able to kind of intertwine my personal experiences with hers, especially the importance of family. To this day, Gloria and Emilio are so incredibly patient and invested in this show. They still check in with us on the road to make sure all of us are good. They’re so extremely hard-working. I’m so happy to represent a woman like Gloria.”
Timeless songs changed music industry
“On Your Feet!” includes a treasure trove of timeless pop hits including “1-2-3,” “Anything for You,” “Here We Are,” “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” “Live for Loving You,” and the title tune to name only a few. It’s safe to say without Emilio, Gloria and the Miami Sound Machine distinctly changing the landscape of pop music with a Latin vibe, who knows whether or not America would’ve embraced Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca” or Camilla Cabello’s “Havana” among others. The monumental impact of their music essentially paved the way for a future generation of Latin artists to crossover, which Prades doesn’t take lightly working alongside music director/keyboardist Clay Ostwald and bass Jorge Casas, original members of Miami Sound Machine who are part of the show’s band.
>> DINING NEWS: Pine Club sold to new ownership
“This show is a wonderful trip down memory lane, but none of these songs feel dated,” she said. “It’s great to have the co-producers and co-writers on stage with us. Clay and Jorge particularly co-wrote ‘Get On Your Feet.’ All the songs are so perfectly orchestrated because we have the original writers, the original sound, on stage. I think that’s what makes this show so special, so unique.”
Prades, seen regionally in “West Side Story” and “In the Heights” whose TV credits include “Orange is the New Black,” also confirms the tour concludes Act 1 with the catchy “Conga” just as it appeared on Broadway. Let’s just say the audience is invited to join the fun of one of the most infectious Act 1 finales conceived in recent years.
Pursuing the American Dream
Emilio and Gloria’s musical influence is undeniable, but equally significant to the core of the show is its relatable look at the couple’s pursuit of the American Dream, a relevant quest that broke barriers and continues to serve as examples to all especially in light of today’s divisive political climate. In fact, both received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and Gloria became the first Cuban-American to receive the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017.
>> WORTH THE DRIVE: Monsters, dragons and unicorns take over COSI
“As the child of two parents who immigrated from Cuba, being in the original Broadway cast of ‘On Your Feet!’ was a life-changing moment,” said actor/playwright Eric Ulloa, who understudied the role of Emilio and whose riveting drama “26 Pebbles” premiered at the Human Race Theatre Company in 2017. “I had the chance to tell my own parent’s story eight times a week on Broadway and remind audiences the American Dream is real and that I am a product of it. Diversity is the foundation of America and ‘On Your Feet!’ displays how two people changed a country when they refused to play by the rules.”
“This show is written to unite both ways of political thinking,” Prades added. “As Americans, we need to continue to find common ground, which is what this show tries to do. Gloria and Emilio came to the United States and continue to give back to the community. They’ve been so gracious and generous. This show is bringing people together to understand how this country should be.”
IF YOU GO
What: “On Your Feet!: The Emilio and Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical”
Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton
When: March 5-10; 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com