By Beki Pineda
ON YOUR FEET – Book by Alexander Dinelaris; Music by Emilio and Gloria Estaban; Directed by Jerry Mitchell. Presented by Denver Center for the Performing Arts Broadway (Buell Theatre, 15th and Curtis, Denver) through August 19. Tickets available at 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.
In 1998, a movie came out called DANCE WITH ME featuring Vanessa Williams as a teacher in a dance studio and (now world famous Latin pop singer) Chayanne as a Puerto Rican who came to work at the studio. He introduced her to a new style of dancing that had not been seen in her world or mine. A loose limbed, easy moving grace embued every movement with the hands, legs, and feet used in new ways. Dips were supported from the neck and by the legs. It was a wonder to watch them almost crouch and leap into each combination. I hadn’t seen that style again until the production of ON YOUR FEET whose dancers took those early steps and added their own variations and energy to them. They make it look so easy and so much fun; you can’t keep your own feet from moving under your seat.
This is the story of how Gloria Fajardo (played by Christie Prades) and Emilio Estaban (a most handsome Ector Rivera) met, created the Miami Sound Machine, fell in love, married and survived not only the ups and downs of the music business, but a horrific accident that could have ended it all. We are all familiar with the music of this duo which made it all the more interesting to learn their back story. Their own Top Ten hits like “1-2-3,” “Conga,” “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” and “Get On Your Feet” are balanced by the beautiful ballads they have also written. Her mother (Nancy Ticotin) who gave up her own career and seems jealous of her daughter’s sings “If I Never Got To Tell You” at Gloria’s bedside as she lies crushed by the accident. Her father, once a strong masculine soldier now devastated by multiple sclerosis, sings “When Someone Comes Into Your Life.” We see the young Gloria as portrayed by Ana-Sofia Rodriguez and the scene-stealing Carlos Carreras who dances into everyone’s heart. Even Gloria’s grandmother, as winningly played by Debra Cardona, gets into the act. All and all, it’s a family story with great impact and great music.
As you know, jukebox musicals are those that highlight the music of an era, a group, or an individual. Using that definition, ON YOUR FEET could be called a jukebox musical . . . but with a heart. In terms of impact and authenticity, it ranks right up there with JERSEY BOYS, but in terms of high energy and enthusiasm, it blows everyone out of the water.
A WOW factor of 9!!