Wednesday, September 22, 2021

"On Your Feet" Bristles With The Beat of Its Own Music

 Moonlight Stage Productions closes out it summer season with the Broadway jukebox hit, the uplifting and crowd pleasing musical, “On Your Feet” through Oct. 2nd. 

With book by Alexander Dinelaris and directed by James Vasquez, choreographed by Carlos Mendoza, and featuring the music of Emilio and Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine, the production bristles with the beat of its own music and right out of the starting gate “The Conga” sets the tone.

Catalina Maynard as Consuelo and Ariella Kvashny as Gloria 
Photo by Adriana Zuniga

“OnYour Feet” traces the success story of the Estefan’s from the early beginnings when a young and naïve eighteen year old Gloria (Ariella Kvashny) is introduced to the lead singer, Emilio Estefan,(Eduardo Enrekiz) in the popular group “Miami Latin Boys” later known as “Miami Sound Machine. He comes calling for her to audition for his group. (“Anything For You”, “I See Your Smile”. All in all, there are 26 musical numbers.)

To say it was love at first sight (“Here We Are”) might be an understatement but Dinelaris’ book (their true to life story) makes us wait a while as their rise to fame for the young Latin’s get to know each other. 

Eduardo Enrikez as Emilio and Ariella Kvashny
as Gloria.
Photo by Ken Jacques

Their story weaves itself through a series of excellent dancing (how about that Salsa, and Cha Cha?) with a crew of some very talented cancers under the leadership of Mendoza and musical director Lyndon Peguda.( and Oh those beautiful costumes by Emilio Sosa) his business disagreements, his management style, and how he took charge of her career. It takes us back in time to their familial roots and shows us how the two made the crossover from Latin to mainstream outlets while not diluting or avoiding political controversies along the way by giving record executives lessons on the realities of the changing faces of America. 

Ariella Kvashny and Co. 
Photo by Ken Jacques

It unfolds in Cuba on a less than successful note for their getting together when Gloria’s mother, also named Gloria (Chrissie Guerrero) and her Consuela, an excellent Catalina Maynard are first introduced.Young Gloria’s mother wants nothing to do with Emilio, his band or his promises. There was no love lost between the two until Gloria’s near fatal accident while on tour years later.

Her reasons stem from the disappointments she experienced as an up and coming entertainer in Cuba when her husband, Gloria’s father (a solid Rudy Martines) an officer under the Batista regime after the revolution was imprisoned by Castro. Finally freed from jail, and he moved to Miami to be with his family.

He volunteered to go to Vietnam where he was exposed to Agent Orange and was later diagnosed with MS. All this was brought up when her mother finally confessed to her why she was so hard on Emilio.  

Ariella Kvashny as Gloria with members of the company
Photo by Fred Tracey

Her catalogue of songs includes “Anything For You”, “Don’t Wanna Lose You”, “Here We Are”, “Live For Loving You”, “When Someone Comes Into Your Life”, “Words Get In The Way”, “Come Out Of The Dark” that she sang on stage, returning to the spotlight after recovering from her horrific accident. No one knew if she would ever walk again. History will show that she did open the American Music Awards of 1991 after nearly a year of physical therapy and encouragement from both Emilio and her mother. 

The talent runs deep throughout the bouncy show and the chemistry between Enrekiz and Kvashny is strong and convincing. Young Diego Mendoza taking on multiple kid’s roles as their son Nayib(how about the Bar Mitzvah Boy, Jeremy (and the breaking of the wedding glass?)with enough rhythm and energy to keep the lights on. Keep your eyes open for that one. 

Blake McCarthy is credited for the projection design and Jean-Yves Tessler, the lighting. 

“Get On Your Feet” with the leads out front and the Miami Sound Machine in the background (on stage), the number that closed out the show must have gone on at least fifteen minutes while the entire audience was, in fact ‘On their Feet’. 

Hats off to Moonlight for keeping the lights on throughout the summer.

See you at the theatre. 

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